A State of (Dis)unity and Uncertain Belonging: The Central African Republic and its Muslim Minority

In: Islamic Africa
Laura Collins Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia, USA,

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Gino Vlavonou Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, Social Science Research Council, Brooklyn, New York, USA,

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This article examines how existing in a larger socio-political environment of contested national belonging shapes Muslims’ experiences in the Central African Republic (car). We draw on data gathered between 2017 and 2019 from various archival sources and in-depth interviews with Muslim religious leaders and non-Muslims in car’s capital, Bangui. We argue that through claims to autochthony a dual logic of exclusion co-occurs which shapes how Muslims experience their minority status. First, national level autochthony debates frame Muslim minority exclusion from the Central African national imagination. Second, at the Muslim intra-communal level, and particularly among religious leaders, autochthony encapsulates debates over “authentic” Muslimhood – fuelled not by contestation over Islamic practice and interpretation, but rather historical contestation based on ethnic exclusion. Specifically, we show that claims to “proper” Central African Muslimhood are premised on autochthony embedded in a dominant myth of primary settlement advanced by certain Muslim leaders.

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