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Varieties of Salafism

I was going to follow up these remarks with a brief distillation of Marc Sageman's take on the different brands of Salafi Islam out there and the relevant policy ideas that following from this understanding, but I see that Sageman's already gone and distilled it himself. Read the whole thing and let me just excerpt this:

Not all Muslim fundamentalists are the same. Just like European socialists acted as a bulwark against Soviet communism last century, peaceful fundamentalist Muslim groups such as the Tablighi Jamaat may help to promote a peaceful message and repudiate terrorist violence. We need to elicit their help for they attract the same clusters of alienated young men as the Global Salafi Jihad and might provide them with a peaceful alternative to terror. Many such organizations are penetrated by the global jihad and we should help them regain their purity by unmasking those that subvert their message.
There's the crux of the matter. Throwing around terms like "Salafi preachers" as our denotation of the problem is going to wind up alienating the people who very much need to not alienate -- traditionalist Muslims who believe in a peaceful dawa strategy as the best way to spread their message. Insofar as the United States defines itself in opposition to the Salafi Dawa, people attracted to the underlying doctrine will conclude that violence is their only option. Indeed, the very use of the term can be problematic. These peaceful Salafis object to using the term to denote people like Qutb and bin Laden.

December 28, 2004 | Permalink


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The TJ doesn't actually have "clean hands". You might want to do a background on your last link too.

Posted by: Happy Jack | Dec 28, 2004 11:24:25 PM

my uncle is involved in tableegh...i tend to agree about its relationship to peace (it is quietist). he is rather pro-US too.

Posted by: razib | Dec 29, 2004 1:18:27 AM

The article at SAAG is pretty lame.

TJ might be Deobandi, but they are politically quietist. They would be considered "conservative", but many Deobandis from this movement I know have also successfully made small fortuntes in capitalist Britain. (My own opinion is that Deobandism is, at its core, a semi-reformist "conservative" movement; conservative in the dictionary definition of the word.)

Their emphasis is on how to pray properly; on ritual washing; on "Islamic manners" and so on. They will knock on the door of Muslims and invite them to the mosque to pray and remind you of being dutiful to your parents and children. They will tell you quite openly "we do not do politics". The basic idea with them is that if Muslims, en masse, begin to perform their pieties in the correct manner, God will take of "everything" else (i.e. politics). For this they are even criticised; bizarrely those people who present Islam as a list of political objectives will call them "secularists".

The SAAG article confuses Zia-ul-Haq's interaction with Pakistani Deobandis for the Tablighi Jammat.

Of course, let's not forget that were Russia is involved in concoting information about Muslims, "clean hands" are virtually guaranteed. I assure you. No seriously, stop laughing; it's true.

Also, when people start talking about "Wahhabi-Deobandi" I tend to click on the cross at the top right hand of my browser, for it is obvious they've never really examined the historical origins of the Wahhabis, or other Indian "revivalist" groups, or the Salafis, or anyone else. Do you know that Saudi Salafis believe the Tablighi Jamaat to be deviants of the highest order? Those of the double-vowels will heap scorn on the Tablighi Jamaat and their religious sympathisers. But never mind. Afterall what's a Salafi or a Tablighi between historical materialists and Sceptical Rationalists; just the same mumbo-jumbo, right?

Lastly, Shi'is tend to claim the status of being "Ashrafs" (as well as many Sunni) -- Ashrafs are people who claim to be descended from the Prophet and so form a sort of "upper caste" in the array of casts and clans in the Subcontinent (which Indo-Pak Muslims are happy to be an integral part of).

After all that I'm hungry. Time for some aloo saag...

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Posted by: dfd | Jun 13, 2006 3:41:23 AM

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