P137 – Radicalisation of Political Islamic Movements in Africa
8 July, 17:30 – 19:00

Hoehne Markus / Institute of Anthropology, University of Leipzig
Bakonyi Jutta / School of Government and International Affairs, University of Durham


Loimeier Roman
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Political Islamic Movements are playing an increasingly important role in various regions of Africa. They propose programs for social and political reform and the reconstruction of social order on the basis of their interpretation of the Koran and Sunna. Albeit only few of these organizations and movements opt for militancy, they are often viewed with suspicion by the governments and international players alike. This panel seeks to challenge the mainstream approach which analyses Political Islamic Movements from a security or counter-terrorism perspective, often applying a binary division in moderate versus radical or even terrorist movements/organisations. Instead the panel applies a political-sociological perspective that aims at understanding ‘radicalisation’ as social process in which individuals or groups turn to political violence and militancy, a process that is simultaneously shaped by local and global dynamics. Guiding questions are how the movements are embedded in the wider society and how contextual factors, such as state and legal structures, socio-economic relations and organisational dynamics contribute to their (de)-radicalisation. In which socio-political context did the movements emerge? How are they organised, and what are their political and religious foundations? What are the relations of militant to non-militant political Islamic movements in a setting or across regions? What are national and international reactions on their foundation and how do these reactions in turn influence and shape the movements? How are the younger militant movements such as Boko Haram in Nigeria or al-Shabaab in Somalia related to older political Islamic movements such as the Egypt Islamic brotherhoods and their various national branches?

Radicalisation des mouvements politiques islamistes en Afrique
Les mouvements politiques islamistes jouent un rôle toujours plus important dans de nombreuses régions en Afrique. Ils proposent des programmes de réformes politiques et sociales, ainsi que la restructuration de l’ordre social sur la base de leur interprétation du Coran et de la Sunna. Bien que seuls, peu de ces organisations et mouvements optent pour le militantisme, ils sont souvent perçus comme suspects par les gouvernements et les acteurs internationaux. Ce panel cherche à contrer l’approche dominante qui analyse les mouvements politiques islamistes dans une perspective sécuritaire ou anti-terroriste, appliquant ainsi une division binaire entre modérés et radicaux voire mouvements/organisations terroristes.  Ainsi, le panel adopte une approche de sociologie politique qui vise à comprendre «la radicalisation» comme un processus social dans lequel les individus ou les groupes ont recourt à la violence politique, et le militantisme, un processus qui est marqué par des dynamiques globales et locales en même temps. Les questions directrices sont : comment les mouvements s’insèrent-ils dans la société plus large et quels facteurs contextuels, tels que l’Etat et les structures légales, les relations socio-économiques et les dynamiques organisationnelles, contribuent à l’augmentation ou la baisse de leur radicalisation? Le contexte de leur émergence? Leur organisation et leurs fondements politiques et religieux? Les relations entre les mouvements politiques islamistes militants et les groupes non-militants dans la même ou entre les différentes région(s)? Les réactions nationales et internationales face à leur fondation, les influences de celles-ci ? Comment les jeunes mouvements militants tels que Boko Haram au Nigéria ou les al-Shabaab en Somalie s’apparentent-ils à des mouvements politico-islamiques plus anciens comme le mouvement des Frères Musulmans en Egypte et leurs diverses branches nationales?


Paper 1

Obućina Vedran / University of Rijeka

The influence of the Islamic Revolution on the political islamic movements in Africa

The rise of the Political Islam in the African continent coincided with the decline of the socialist/secular Arab movements and the rise of Pan-Islamism. Instrumental for the latter were the ideas stemming from political Islamic thinkers, such as Qutb, Khomeini, Mawdudi, ibn al Uthaymeen. However, the influence of these thinkers prevailed in a full fledged revolution only in Iran. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 was a turning point in the history of contemporary politics, as it influenced so many Islamic movements, Shi’a and Sunni. Only after the Islamic Revolution many Middle Eastern and North African movements embraced Islam as core ideology. This paper provides a comprehensive study of the direct and indirect influences of the Iranian Islamic Revolution on Africa. Especially accentuated are: (1) Front Islamique du Salut in Algeria; (2) National Islamic Front in Sudan; (3) Wal Fadjri in Senegal; and, more recently, (4) the uprisings labeled as Arab Spring. The paper does not look at the genesis of these movements, but shows how the Iranian Revolution was instrumental in helping those movements to emerge or take shape. Key ideas stemming from this revolution concerned social justice and fight against oppressive regimes.

Paper 2

Dowd Caitriona / University of Sussex

Radicalisation, conflict and the political economy of Islamist violence in Kenya, Mali and Nigeria

Neither political Islamist movements nor violent Islamist activity are new phenomena in Sub-Saharan Africa, but recent years have witnessed a sharp escalation in the frequency and intensity of Islamist violence there. This paper seeks to understand this phenomenon as a process associated with the political, economic and social characteristics of the national and sub-national spaces in which Islamist groups operate, and the political economy of conflict in which they choose to use, or (de-)escalate the use of, violence. Contrary to a dominant narrative that emphasises the transnational and highly mobile nature of Islamist violence, this analysis focuses attention on the local characteristics within which such groups operate, including interactions between violent Islamist groups, state security forces, armed non-state actors, and civilians. Islamist violence typically emerges in areas with pre-existing legacies, histories, forms and agents of violence, but the analysis of Islamist groups is often divorced from these contexts. Here, the activity of violent Islamist groups is conceptualised as part of a dynamic and fluid conflict environment, the contours of which are shaped by the presence, number, concentration, fragmentation and configurations of other conflict actors competing for community support, wider political relevance, and/or strategic advantage. The research explores these themes in relation to Islamist violence in Kenya, Mali and Nigeria.

Paper 3

el-Taraboulsi Sherine / University of Oxford

Gender Norms and Female Participation in Radical Movements in Northern Nigeria

Analysis on the Jama’atul Ahlus Sunna Liddawat Jihad (JAS) or Boko Haram has highlighted multiple dimensions of a chronic crisis: expanding Islamist extremism in Northern Nigeria, the government’s failure to address radicalism, critical data gaps on Islamist radical groups, as well as the position of women in Northern Nigeria. Women have become the locale within which ideological and other battles are fought – often within an Islamic garb. However, women have not been passive actors; they have contributed to resisting radicalism and, at times, shaping it. Available literature has lamented women’s victimization and celebrated their struggle for empowerment but has shied away from the other side of the coin; women who participate in radical movements, and who may also be seeking a form of empowerment by using different means. The paper explores how women engage in radical movements in Nigeria and how their participation is translated across the different spaces in which they exist – the family, the radical group and the public space at large. The study incorporates a wide range of respondents in Northern Nigeria including women who belonged to different Islamic sects, women in civil society and those working with the government on countering terrorism. Men’s views are also taken on board. The study’s findings address drivers of women’s radicalism, modes of their participation in radical movements as well as recommendations for a “soft approach” to tackling radicalism.

Paper 4

Roy Emilie / Al Akhawayn University

Islamizing the Public Sphere through the Education of Pious Citizens in Bamako’s Medersas

The arabisants emerging from Bamako’s médersas have constructed and controlled a social and political sphere as self-conscious Muslim, pious citizens and productive agents in the officially secular Malian public sphere. Médersas are providing the tools to debate this engagement and the limits of it regarding political and social issues. The arabisants are at the forefront of a return to religion that speaks to a concept of re-traditionalization where Islam is claimed and celebrated as both a factor of internal cohesion and of social peace. The choice for the arabisants is never between participation in modernity or Islam however, but rather between an Islamicized and a Westernized modernity.
This paper discusses how the arabisants have focused their activism on moralizing the daily lives of Malian and the Malian state by creating a class of pious, educated, and well-informed Muslim citizens rather than by direct involvement in the political process. Islam mondain – a form of sacralisation of daily life that allows one to live as a pious Muslim in a secular, pluralistic, and democratic environment – as it unfolds in Bamako’s médersas and beyond, is linked to “the quiet encroachment of the ordinary” as a form of political action described by Bayat (2010). This thus paper illustrates the agency of the Malian arabisants in defining their political activities, rendered Islamic, in the public sphere in light of Bayat’s theorizing of daily life as politics.

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