Islamic Polarisation and the Politics of Exclusion in Ghana: Tijaniyya and Salafist Struggles over Muslim Orthodoxy

In: Islamic Africa

This article explores how the revival of the Tijaniyya and the Salafi movement shaped public discourse about Islam in Ghana. Examining the debates which characterised the religious sphere in the 1990s re-democratisation, the article highlights the power struggle which shaped the relations between the contending Muslim groups. It argues that the recognition of the Tijaniyya movement as a representative for all Muslims during Ghana’s re-democratisation in the 1990s emboldened its sympathisers to adopt repressive measures against the Salafi minority. While the local success of Salafism was often linked to locally specific forms of ethnic, political or generational self-assertion, the shared experience of political disadvantage during this period led to a consolidation of Salafi activities at the national level. Thus, as the Tijaniyya influence was politicised by Government, the ensuing conflicts between Sufi and Salafi groups also led to a politicisation of Salafism from below. Illustrating that intra-Muslim debates and disagreements cannot be divorced from their political context, this study demonstrates that learning to be Muslim in Ghana is deeply embedded in political, ethnic, and intergenerational dynamics.