Senegal mourns leader of Muslim brotherhood

Dakar - Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and top officials on Thursday went to the holy city of Touba to pay homage to the leader of the influential Muslim brotherhood, the Mourides, who died aged 85.

The Caliph General Serigne Bara Mbacke died on Wednesday night in the Mourides holy city of Touba, 200km from the capital Dakar, a source close to his entourage told the Senegalese Press Agency.

He had moved to the city after his recent hospitalisation in Dakar, the source said.

The cleric was buried in the Great Mosque of Touba, which is one of the largest in Africa.

On Thursday, state television broadcast hymns and readings from the Koran as well as scenes of massive crowds gathering in Touba.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, himself a devout Mouride, was expected to pay his respects later Thursday in Touba, the country's second largest city which falls under the exclusive authority of the caliph general.

The head of state is accompanied by the prime minister, president of the Senate and many ministers, including his son Karim.

Wade, 84, is a regular visitor to Touba, often making a journey there after an election to thank religious leaders for their support.

The sixth caliph general was replaced as head of the brotherhood by family member Serigne Cheikh Maty Leye Mbake, 86, the eldest grandson of the founder of Mouridism Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke (1853-1927).

In 2007, three days of national mourning followed the dead of the previous Caliph who died age 92.

Ninety percent of Senegal's population is Muslim, most following Sufi Islam represented by different brotherhoods born at the end of the 19th century out of a resistance to French colonialism.

The Mouride brotherhood, founded in 1883, is one of the most powerful and its influence pervades all areas of Senegalese life, including politics and the economy.

It also has a large influence in the rest of West Africa and many followers of the brotherhood, known for being dynamic businessmen, have emigrated to Europe and the United States, notably in New York where a large Mouride community in Harlem is dubbed "Little Senegal".

The semi-autonomous city of Touba is Senegal's second largest after Dakar, with an estimated population of 1.5 million inhabitants and it attracts massive crowds during an annual pilgrimage.

Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba Mbacke, the father of Mouridism, promoted sharing and a strong culture of community and hard work.

In Senegal, photos, sayings and amulets from the brotherhoods are plastered on the inside of homes, taxis and buses. - Sapa-AFP

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