Conflict in Mali Could Damage Religious Tolerance

There are fears extremism may become popular


There's a well-known saying in Mali that the country is "98% Muslim, 2% Christian and 100% animist", with Islam absorbing traditional practices and allowing people to retain connections with their customary spirituality – providing a formula for religious tolerance.

But the recent uprising by radical Islamist groups in the north has shattered this picture of tolerance and cooperation. While most Malians breathed a sigh of relief as the Islamists were pushed back by the French and Chadian intervention, few can rule out a return. And with elections planned for July looking uncertain, some religious leaders are concerned that continuing political failure could lead to extremist ideologies becoming more popular.