(Sightings) Ousmane Kane—Is Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa More (or Less) Peaceful than Elsewhere?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The destruction of the sixth-century monumental Buddha statues of Bamiyan in March 2001 by the Taliban shocked many persons concerned with the preservation of world cultural legacy. Such examples of iconoclasm were not new in Islamic history. In the name of the restoration of the purity of the faith, groups with similar persuasions have destroyed Sufi and Shiite shrines in various parts of the Arabian Peninsula during the nineteenth and twentieth century. But until very recently, few observers believed that such examples of iconoclasm will ever reach the Sahel. Although the Sahelian countries had overwhelming Muslim populations, Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa was believed to be peaceful compared to elsewhere in the Arab World. In most of the twentieth century, no armed Islamic group was to be found anywhere in the Sahel. Very few Sub-Saharans trained in Afghanistan during the Soviet Occupation or joined Al-Qaida, and suicide bombing was unheard of until a few years ago. This is not so much because intolerant Islamic groups were not to be found in the Sahel, but they had neither the sophistication nor the logistical and financial resources to challenge state power.

In recent years, a variety of jihadi groups have appeared in the Sahel, the Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahidin in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Movement for Unicity and Jihad in West Africa. Recently, these groups have linked up with AQIM which provided them with sophisticated military training and substantial financial and logistical resources....

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryAfrica* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

Posted February 7, 2013 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Robert Lundy wrote:

I don’t know why people underestimate radical Islam’s ability to spread to new areas.

February 7, 10:21 am | [comment link]
2. sophy0075 wrote:

They are as peaceful as Katharine Jefforts Schori, only they have rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombers.

February 7, 6:57 pm | [comment link]
3. MichaelA wrote:

Professor Kane makes a good point.  I suggest that part of the reason for radicalism emerging in sub-Saharan Africa is because the frontier between Christianity and Islam in Africa has been moving north for many decades.  In other words, Islam’s historical tide south has been reversed, and some elements of Islam are more likely to strike out in frustration.

This does not excuse the behaviour of the Muslim extremists, but may help to partly explain their origin.  Islam feels threatened, even in areas where it has held virtually unchallenged sway for centuries.

February 8, 4:12 am | [comment link]
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