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The only known remaining photograph of Ahmadu Bamba
The only known remaining photograph of Ahmadu Bamba

DAKAR — A cartoon of an early 20th-century Senegalese Muslim leader has sparked a nationwide uproar, with the vignette criticized by civilians and political leaders alike. The Paris-based African news magazine Jeune Afrique published a cartoon of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride Brotherhood, last week in which a passing Westerner asks why the traditionally robed leader is "wearing a dress." The magazine formally apologized for the caricature over the weekend and removed it from the website, although it is still visible on the cartoonist's Twitter profile.

The caricature poked fun at ongoing controversy in Senegal over men carrying handbags, a new fashion trend pioneered by the young singer Wally Seck. Religious leaders — including representatives of the Sufi Muslim Mouride Brotherhood, whose adherents make up around 40% of Senegal's population — harshly criticized his fashion choice and called it "effeminate," with newspapers publishing homophobic insults. Homosexuality is outlawed in Senegal and many other African countries.

Parisian newspaper Le Parisien reports that Seck pointed to American artists such as Kanye West wearing similar male handbags as proof that he was not "promoting" homosexuality. The Jeune Afrique cartoon, seeking to show how a traditional Senegalese robe could be caricatured as effeminate by a Westerner, drew fierce criticism from the Mourides and from the Senegalese government itself.

The intense backlash that forced Jeune Afrique to pull the cartoon of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, considered a "national symbol" by the current government, also led Seck to apologize to his fans and promise not to wear handbags again. The debacle caught the attention of the international press, with the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa commenting in an analysis piece that the Senegal case presents the expansion of a wave of religiously influenced crackdowns on freedom of expression in Africa and the Middle East.


Unlike Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that incensed the Muslim world, the uproar in Senegal was sparked by a drawing of a revered — yet mortal — religious leader. The freedom of satire grows ever more constrained, even in free and democratic Senegal.

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

Boarding a plane in Camaguey, Cuba

Santiago Villa

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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