Yesterday, I returned from a 9 day trip to the West Africa nation of Mali, an 85% Muslim country.
As last year, I gave a presentation at the Malian Association of Peace and Tolerance conference, whose presenters and attenders included the top Muslim, Catholic and Protestant leaders in the nation, U.S. Ambassador to Mali and persons from other West African nations. The conference was covered on Malian national t.v.
Despite Mali being one of the poorest countries in the world (average household income at $275 per year) and having a high rate of illiteracy, Mali is an impressive place with impressive people, whom Americans could learn a lot from.
Mali has numerous ethnic groups with 14 languages spoken in the country, French being the language of the government due to colonial remnants. Yet, Mali is virtually free of tribal and ethnic tension and violence. Moreover, people of different religious are extremely tolerant. As I met with leaders who were Muslim, Catholic and Evangelical and answered their questions regarding racism and Islamphobia in America, they all articulated that there are no such local, state or national discussions on these issues. Having hate crime stats are a non-issue for the government.
Mali also has an extreme low crime rate and murder rate in particular.
For instance, Mali’s capital, Bamako, has approximately 600,000 more residents than Detroit with only a handful of murders per year while Detroit averages 300+ (closer to 400) per year. And though alcohol is legal in this secular society, alcohol abuse is extremely low and the usage of illicit drugs is almost non-existant, especially in the rural areas.
Being in Mali again reminded me about the flaws of arguments made by many on the Left that poverty is perhaps the foremost reason for crime in America or that economic development in developing countries is the best way to protect young males from being enticed by extremists. If that were the case, Mali should have perhaps one of the highest crime rates in the world and should be the most fertile ground for Al-Qaeda.
What Mali has that we are loosing in America in urban, suburban and rural areas is a strong sense of community and mores based in strong moral principles that guard our communities from crime.
When making your international travel plans, I strongly suggest that you visit Mali and see what I’m saying for yourself. I am sure that you’ll be impressed as I was.