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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Senegal's Carmen controversy
Touba, where the Mourides are based
The Mourides exert considerable influence in Senegal
A powerful Senegalese Islamic brotherhood has halted the screening of a film which it condemns as blasphemous.

Local newspapers reported that dozens of members of the Mouride sect - some armed with clubs - gathered outside a cinema in the capital, Dakar, threatening to set the building on fire.

They were protesting against a scene in Karmen Gei, a film version of the classic opera Carmen, in which Mouride chants can be heard while a lesbian is buried.

At the time the film was due to be shown, we found the police blockading the cinema

Aissatou Diop
Cinema manager
The Mourides are Senegal's most vocal Islamic sect and boast President Abdoulaye Wade as one of the faithful.

The showing was abandoned in order to prevent any trouble.

"At the time the film was due to be shown, we found the police blockading the cinema," said manager Aissatou Diop.

Modern African opera

In Karmen Gei, Senegalese film director Joseph Gaye Ramaka reworks the opera and sets it in modern Dakar.

It was well received when it was shown at the Cannes Film festival in June and has been on release in Dakar since July without any previous problems.

Market trader
Mourides are well-known as hard-working traders

But on Friday a Mouride leader made an appeal on a local radio station for protests against the film and some disciples duly obliged.

Drawing strongly on the novel by Prosper Merimee and the opera by Georges Bizet, Mr Ramaka describes his version of Carmen as a tale of passion and freedom.

The main protagonist is plunged into the "magical, chaotic urban life of an African city", her adventures accompanied by a soundtrack of pulsating Senegalese music.

Prison seduction

Mr Ramaka's Karmen is resourceful, irresistible and bi-sexual.

She seduces the governess of a prison on the Island of Goree, notorious as a 19th-century slaving warehouse.

The governess later commits suicide and it is her burial which has stoked up the controversy.

Karmen is the first full-length feature by Mr Ramaka, described by the BBC's Chris Simpson as one of the strongest champions of the Senegalese film industry.

Our correspondent says it is not yet clear whether Karmen Gei has now been banned completely or simply withdrawn temporarily.

See also:

14 May 01 | Africa
The annual trek to Touba
04 Sep 01 | Africa
Senegal-Libya sex row deepens
14 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Senegal
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