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African Salafism: Religious Purity and the Politicization of Purity

In: Islamic Africa
Author: Terje Østebø1
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There is much ambiguity in terms of how Salafism is understood as an empirical phenomenon and how it is used as an analytical concept. This is partly because it often occurs rather uncritically in the media and in public discourses, but also due to the fact that Salafism represents a phenomenon encompassing a broad range of issues. This paper gives an overview over features and trends inherent in what I call African Salafism, focusing on issues such as the role of African agency, quests for religious purity, and processes of politicization of purity. The concept of African Salafism is obviously not unproblematic, as it may give the impression that we are dealing with a phenomenon that can neatly be delineated, and that it is characterized by a certain set of features making it distinct from other forms. It is important to recognize that African Salafism signifies the representation of Salafism on the African continent, as something shaped by African realities, and which obviously would contain significant local varieties.

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