Salafism(s) in Tanzania: Theological Roots and Political Subtext of the Ansār Sunna

In: Islamic Africa
Søren Gilsaa Independent researcher

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Over the past three decades, the role of Salafism has grown considerably in Tanzania, causing clashes and discord between Muslims, Christians and the state and among Muslims themselves. This article traces the roots of the Ansār Sunna, the “defenders of the Sunna”, which is the most conspicuously purist and fast-growing group of Salafi organizations in Tanzania at present. The article discusses the Ansār Sunna local and foreign impetuses and situates the Ansār’s defense of “pure Sunna” in Tanzania’s historical and contemporary politics. The analysis highlights the particularities of individual Ansār organizations and the significance of local actors and changing political conditions for the shaping of Salafi ideas, practices, and identities. Situating the production of Salafi expressions and identities in the ongoing Muslim dialogue within specific environments, the article suggests an inherent diversity, malleability and localizing nature of Salafism.

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