Leading French language news magazine Jeune Afrique has removed a cartoon of a prominent Senegalese Muslim leader that sparked outrage in the West African country.

The row erupted after the magazine on Thursday published a caricature of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the powerful Mouride Brotherhood, to accompany an online article about a controversy in the country over men carrying handbags.


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The fashion trend, sparked by a young male singer called Wally Seck, has been widely criticised, with some suggesting it was promoting homosexuality, which is illegal in Senegal.

In the article, which ran under a cleverly worded headline that plays on the word handbag and loosely translates as "It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt", the magazine used a caricature of a Westerner smoking a cigar and looking at a photo of Bamba in a traditional long robe, remarking: "Hey, why's he wearing a dress?"

Widespread reaction

The publication triggered an immediate outcry, with politicians and religious leaders condemning the article and calling on the magazine to remove it.

"We do not accept that a person as illustrious as Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba should be brought into this type of debate," Senegalese government spokesman Seydou Gueye told RFM, a private radio station.

"We cannot accept the dissemination of such a degrading article," he said.

Mouride spokesman Serigne Bassirou Mbacke Abdoul Khadre, who is based in Senegal's second largest city Touba - the Brotherhood's spiritual home - had denounced the article as an attack on Bamba and his followers, several newspapers reported Friday.

"The disciple who sees his master attacked could have an unpredictable reaction," he said.

There was also a backlash on social media sites in Senegal, with Jeune Afrique quickly changing the cartoon to show a man in a long robe.

By Friday, clicking on the article linked to a message from editor-in-chief, Elise Colette, offering the magazine's "sincere apology" and saying that in light of the backlash, she had "decided to take down the cartoon and the accompanying text".

"With this drawing, our intention was not to insult anyone, and certainly not to harm the image of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba who is venerated by many followers, but to expose the stupidity of those who cannot differentiate between a caftan and a dress," she wrote.

'National symbol'

Ninety percent of Senegal's population is Muslim, most following Sufi Islam represented by different brotherhoods.

The Mouride Brotherhood, founded by Bamba in 1883, is one of the most powerful and its influence pervades all areas of Senegalese life, including politics and the economy. Both President Macky Sall and his predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, are members of the Mouride Brotherhood, and many of its members live in the US and in Europe.

The government said it "noted the apology by Jeune Afrique", and stressed that Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba "is a national symbol".

In January last year, Senegal banned the distribution of an edition of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and French daily newspaper Liberation, which had published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

Source: AFP