By Agence France-Presse
Senegal’s powerful Muslim brotherhoods have suspended religious festivities planned for this month over coronavirus fears, following President Macky Sall’s decision to limit public gatherings.
More than 90 percent of Senegal is Muslim and most of the faithful follow Sufi brotherhoods, which retain considerable influence in the West African state of some 16 million people.
There had been fears that a string of brotherhood-related festivals planned for this month would propagate the virus in Senegal, which has recorded 27 confirmed cases to date.
But the main brotherhoods have all called off this month’s festivals.
Breaking with longstanding tradition, the Mouride brotherhood on Monday asked its followers not to travel to the central city of Touba to celebrate the “Kazu Rajab” on March 22.
The event — which commemorates the birth of the Mouride’s second leader — regularly draws hundreds of thousands of worshippers to the city of some 1.5 million people.
The group’s spokesman Mouhamadou Badawi Mbacke said the Mouride leader had instructed the faithful to read the Koran and the writings of the brotherhood’s founder from home, instead of attending the festival.
“Let everyone do that wherever they may be found,” the spokesman said, who also explained that Mouride followers should follow the government’s sanitary advice.
The Tidiane, Layene and Khadre brotherhoods also cancelled similar festivals over the weekend.
The announcements follow the president’s decision last week to close schools, and even call off celebrations of Senegal’s 60th anniversary of independence from France, in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.