Mali Al Qaidas CountryWhen I first journeyed to Bamako to research Sufism in Mali in 2006, my American students generally asked two questions: Where is Mali and what is Sufism? Today, the answer to both of these questions is found daily in the headline news. Cultural heritage in Mali is under attack. But just as the armed conflict there is not simply a battle between Islamic extremists and a weak Malian army supported by the French, the destruction of Sufi shrines and Islamic manuscripts not merely the result of an iconoclastic and intolerant religious fanaticism. While these violent attacks on Mali’s Islamic heritage are indeed tragic, they are sadly not isolated or unique.

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