The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged salafi
Ending Jihadism? The Transformation of Armed Islamist Movements
From an article in the newArab Reform Bulletin on the wave of jihadi recantation and the de-radicalization of Salafist Jihadist groups in North Africa and elsewhere:

Research on de-radicalization processes shows that a combination of charismatic leadership, pressure from the government, interactions with non-jihadis as well as from within the organization, and selective inducements from the state and other actors are common causes of de-radicalization. Government pressure and interaction with  non-jihadis often cause jihadi leaders to rethink strategically, learn politically, and revise their worldview. Following this, the leadership initiates a de-radicalization process that is bolstered by selective inducements from the state as well as by internal interactions with the followers. De-radicalized groups often interact with violent ones and in some cases the former influences the latter, a sort of domino effect demonstrated in the cases of the IG and al-Jihad Organization in Egypt, the AIS and factions from the GIA, the GSPC and other militias in Algeria and de-radicalized Islamist figures and individual suspects in Saudi Arabia. 

Whether de-radicalization will continue and eventually have a serious impact on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other like-minded organizations depends on many factors, not the least of which is regime type in the countries in question. In dictatorships, de-radicalization processes and programs are a short to mid-term solution for the problem of Islamist political violence. Indeed, de-radicalization does not mean that the root causes of radicalism were properly addressed and resolved. The Egyptian Muslim Brothers abandoned political violence back in the 1970s, for example, but the much more violent IG and al-Jihad emerged as their successors in the same decade. Now the IG has also abandoned violence, but the repression from dictatorships, socioeconomic strains, and exclusionary dogmas can ultimately reproduce similar organizations. Successful democratization and religious reformation remain critical to a long-term, durable solution. "

While all this is fine and dandy, I've found the excitement over these recantations to be blown out of proportion to some degree. Even is they eschew violence, the ideology of these groups remains extremely radical, intolerant, bigoted, and susceptible to create social violence (among Muslims as well as between Muslims and non-Muslims). Regular "scientific" Salafism, which some of these jihadis are reverting too, seems to me still incipiently takfiri. Let's not get too excited just yet, especially when the current generation of recantations has been largely obtained from jihadi leaders under arrest who appear to be recycling themselves for a career in post-Bin Ladenism.
Salafists and satellite media in Egypt
There's a very interesting article at Arab Media and Society on Salafi satellite TV in Egypt, looking at Salafist satellite television stations, their popularity, and what impact they are having on society and politics. Its conclusion is that Salafist stations are not the cause of quietist apolitical views, and that the Muslim Brothers' experience since 2006 and the pushback from the state against their political success at the ballot box may be where to look. I'm no so sure about that, but this is very interesting venture into the world of non-jihadi Salafi media.

Since the Egyptian government does not allow the more politically-active Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin) to base their own satellite stations in the country, some critics claim that this is part of a strategy to cultivate Salafism as a counterweight to the Brotherhood. According to Egyptian novelist and cultural commentator Alaa Aswany, “the political quietism of the Salafis and their injunctions to always obey the ruler are too good an opportunity for established Arab rulers to pass up,” adding that Salafism is “a kind of Christmas present for the dictators because now they can rule with both the army and the religion.”

Yet outside of these dramatic claims – usually made by non-Islamists writing in opposition newspapers – there has been little in-depth study of the issue, and nothing in English. We attempt to rectify this situation by addressing two questions: To what extent, if any, is the popularity of Salafi television a reflection of the rise of a distinctly more puritanical form of Islamism in Egypt? And to what extent, if any, are these stations a tool in a competition between Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood? We base our study on extensive interviews with Egyptian and American experts, a survey of the available written Arabic language material and our personal viewing of the stations. Given our research limitations, we do not believe that the presence and popularity of Salafi television is causing Egyptians to become more conservative in their religious beliefs nor is it part of a government strategy of cultivating Salafism as a counterweight to the Muslim Brotherhood, as Aswany claims. Rather, its popularity is best viewed, mundanely, as reflecting a logical shift towards more puritanical interpretations of religion, across broad segments of society, in response to specific economic, cultural and political developments.

Via Arabic Media Shack, where I left a comment on the article.