Senegal: Promoting religious tolerance through music
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) tries to promote religious tolerance in Senegal by a music project. The West African country has often been praised as a positive example for the peaceful coexistence of people with different religious beliefs – until so far. However, as IngeHerbert, Resident representative of FNF in Senegal,told during an interview with freiheit.org, the mood in Senegal is fragile because of the potential threats by radical Islamist groups.
Ms. Herbert first outlined the context, in which a song by Nicolas Job had been produced. The song production was part of an initiative by the Senegalese producer Jean Pierre Senghor, a renowned vocalist and keyboarder himself, working once with the Brazilian band “Obina shok”. Senghor carries a name familiar to any Senegalese child. His grandfather was Senegal’s first President after independence, Leopold Senghor. Jean Pierre Senghor’s project “JammAkSalam” (i.e. “Peace” in Senegal’s official language Wolof) intends to bring together musicians from Africa, Brazil and the United States. Nicolas Job’s song will be promoted at various global music and other creative competitions. The song is called “Digente Asamaan Ak Suuf” (You can watch the video clip under http://www.gfm.sn/clip-official-digente-asamaan-ak-suuf-nicolas-job-feat-ahmet-maal-dige%CC%88nte-asamaan-ak-suuf-clip-officiel/)
Meanwhile Nicolas Job‘s song, whose video clip was funded by FNF, is streamed on TV as well as radio stations in Senegal and became very popular. Ms. Herbert also underlined the given message of the song which aims to promote the dialogue between religions by emphasizing freedom of belief and by rejecting violence. Furthermore, a performance at the Institut Francais office in Dakar, is also scheduled for the near future.
Regarding the situation of religious groups in Senegal, Ms. Herbert addressed challenges to religious freedom. Presently, 90% of Senegal’s 14 Mill. citizens are Muslims, only 5% are Christians. As peaceful coexistence has been possible until now, Senegal can be praised as a good example for other countries having similar structures. However, Ms. Herbert added that the situation might change because of the potential threats by radical Islamist groups, which increasingly become a matter of concern. Until now, the powerful but moderate Sufi-Muslim orders in Senegal could contain a potential radicalization. Nevertheless, it is urgent to take religious radicalization seriously and to take preventive steps. Ms. Herbert also emphasized the objective of FNF to reach young people through this project. More than 60 % of the entire population of Senegal is under 24 years old. Thus, with this music project the FNF intends to support all voices standing for tolerance and freedom of religion and rejecting violence.