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This article offers a twofold analysis of the popularity of Cherif Ousmane Madani Häidara and the Muslim association Ansar Dine (founded by Haïdara in 1983) in the contemporary Malian Islamic sphere. The author initially observed signs in southwest Mali supporting the view that Häidara was more popular than neo-Hanbali reformist tendencies. In order to frame the debate in a self-critical way, however, the author later argues and elaborates that his perception of the unmatched popularity of Häidara and Ansar Dine in Mali possibly emanates from the persuasive arousal that he experienced as a crowd-fellow during the yearly Ansar Dine ‘pilgrimage’ of Maouloud in Bamako. Through this self-ethnography based on the phenomenology of a religious movement’s gathering, the article states that experiencing popularity is about persuasion. In this sociohistoric context of rivalry measuring popularity is above all speculative due to politics, media, and sensationalism.

In: Journal of Religion in Africa