Salafism is a puritanical form of Islam that emphasises on following the tenents of the first generation of Muslims who are usually called the Pious predecessors or as-Salaf as Saleh which is the name that gave the name of the Salafis.Slafis believe in the strict interpretation of Islamic theology in the manners of their beliefs,mannerisms,method of worship and conduct and reject any alteration of the practices that were introduced in the 7 th century and this is where Salafism becomes a danger.
Salafism rejects Kalam or speculative philosophy which is what Sufism and much of Shia Islam have thrived on .Kalam is what allowed the Golden Age of Islam to thrive as Muslims studied Greek philosophy and made advances in Mathematics and the Sciences.Salafis reject Kalam as they believe their doctrine is not to be opposed. It is supposed to be adhered to .Full Stop .With no questions asked.Wahabbism is part of Salafism,is mainly practised in Saudi Arabia and is the most extreme form of Islam in existence .Though many salafis reject Wahabbism as part of salafism,the fact that Salafism is spread mainly by funds from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia speaks volumes of the strong link between the two.
While Salafis claim to denounce violence and claim tolerance.Their actions speak the opposite.
Salafism has made inroads into Pakistan since the era of General Zia ul Haq.This has gone hand in hand with Jihadism creating a volatile situation in the country to the point of anarchy.Sufism,the tolerant,vibrant and accommodating branch of Islam is all but dead in Pakistan and the last remaining group,the Ahmadis are under constant persecution.Salafis tend to consider their followers to be the only true muslims and the rest,Apostates.That includes moderate and secular Sunnis, Sufis and Shias. Pakistanis have reached the highest level of fanatism whereby on a weekly basis, either an Ahmadi mosque is being bombed or Shias are under constant threat.
Now if fellow Muslims are being persecuted, imagine how the Christians and Hindus of Pakistan live?
Indonesia probably has the most liberal form of Islam outside of the former Soviet states but even there, although Salafism as a doctrine has failed to become popular, its way of thinking is gradually taking over society. Intolerance of other religions is becoming the norm .Restrictions on church building, Hindu dancing(which is part of Indonesian culture since Indonesians were previously Hindus)and clothing are on the rise. Many Indonesian clerics are alarmed at the fast rise of Christianity in the country and attacks on Churches have become the norm with the Province of Aceh implementing Sharia Law.
It is said that the most persecuted Christians are those who live in Northern Nigeria.Their persecution however began recently when mosques begain to get Saudi funding and many imams shifted from the Peaceful African Sufism that had flourished for centuries in West Africa to radical Salafism.In Nigeria,many Muslims tend to reject secular education automatically pulling them down to the bottom of the economic ladder in Nigeria with Christians filling up the top. Even with political domination, Muslims of Northern Nigeria have made little headway economically thus resenting the Southerners and Central Nigerians for their success. Together with Salafism,came jihadism and it was such a situation that led to the creation of the terror Group Boko Haram that to this day targets Government institutions and Churches for bombing.It has also engaged in mass ehnic cleansing in many parts of Northern Nigeria.However even before the emergrence of Boko Haram,the salafi way of thinking has led to several clashes between Radical Muslims and Christians and moderate Muslims along the Christian-Muslim fault line in Central Nigeria.In 2000,the Christians of the State of Kaduna who are 45% of the population protested against the introduction of Sharia in Kaduna.2000 Christians died in the aftermath.Salafis went on to impose Sharia in Niger State where Christians are a slim majority.They are also on a campaign of kidnapping Christian girls and marrying them off in a bid to Islamise the state.
The islamist power grab in Mali came as a shock. The aftermath of Gadaffis fall led to the expulsion of Tuaregs from Libya and a flood of arms into the Sahara. The Tuaregs made a grab for a homeland in Northern Mali where they are the majority. They however intended to create a secular state since Tuaregs are mostly Sufis and Sufism supports secular governments .Al Qaeda in Maghreb, A jihadist group with Salafi doctrine made a power grab and surprisingly,succeeded.The Islam mists have proceeded to destroy Timbuktu, one of Islams golden gems with some of the best Islamic architecture.
East Africa has fared better than West Africa generally.Radicalisation has been limited to Sudan and Somalia and Sufism and moderate Islam have continued to have a strong hold in Kenya and Ethiopia.However,even there, radicalism is slowly creeping in.In Ethiopia, there are parts where Christians live under constant threat of violence from their Muslim neighbours. In Kenya, things drastically changed when Kenya invaded Somalia to oust the Al Shabaab.The Al Shabaab in turn have tried to create animosity between Christians and Muslims by bombing Churches. And in many times it has almost succeeded. The Kenyan Government at the same time seems to be taking a hard-line stance on Salafism:By silently executing radical preachers.Early in 2012,A Mombasa based imams body turned up in Tsavo.Later on ,Sheikh Aboud Rogo who was one of the extremist preachers in Mombasa had 20 bullets pumped into his body,an incident that sparked a 3 day period of rioting and grenade attacks on Police by Muslim civillians.Another was gunned down under mysterious circumstances in Nairobis Eastlands towards the end of 2012 leading to speculation that the Kenyan Government is literally fighting Fire with Fire.Salafists dare not enter Ethiopia where Meles long recognised the danger of radical Islam and tightly regulated the clerics, only allowing a form of Sufism to be practised in Ethiopia. Of course ,Some Muslims tried to oppose this in July 2012 when huge demonstrations in the absence of Meles, took place. The Ethiopian Government, like the Kenyan Government realise the danger of Salifi Islam and are doing their best to contain it with some success.Sufism continues to flourish in East Africa. Sudan is a major centre of Salafi Islam combined with elements of Pan Arabism that have lead to an extreme ideology that has perpetuated the worst massacres in human history.The Arabs of Sudan save for the Rashaida tribe are actually a mixture of Nubian, African and Arabic elements who have completely Islamised and Arabised and have fully adopted an Arab identity even though most do not look like Arabs at all.Their Salafi ideology lead to a policy of Arabisation and Islamisation which has put the Khartoum Government in a perpetual conflict with virtually every corner of the country. In the East are the Beja a Cushitic tribe and the Rashaida who are actually true Arabs who came to Sudan 150 years ago. Marginalisation by the Government has lead to resentment which peaked when Arabic was imposed on the Beja and the Government trying to force the Rashaida to intergrateinto Sudan society leading to open rebellion in the Red Sea and Kassalla States. In the West is the location of one of the best known Genocide, Darfur Genocide. This genocide was a genocide of Muslims by muslims with the Sudan Arabs massacring the Fur tribe who also happen to be Muslims but practice a mild form of Islam and retain much of their African customs. In the South, the Khartoum Government had engaged the mainly Christian Nilotic tribes in a civil war that lasted for half a century and cumulated in the secession of South Sudan in 2011.The Salafi Government continues the policy of mass ethnic cleansing in South Kordofan and Blue Nile where the majority of the population is of Southern Extract but happens to be in an oil rich area that the government plans to repopulate with Arabs so as to control it.
Salafism in Somalia is (surprisingly)a recent phenomenon despite the civil war being on for the last 21 years.The war was mainly clan based until the rise of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006.The ICU was later ousted by the Ethiopians and the ICU collapsed into factions in which the Al Shabaab became the most powerful and imposed a Taliban like regime which lasted until September 2012 When Kenya drove them out of their main base in Kismayu.This however triggered a wave of terrorist attacks in Kenya mainly in Somali areas.
Egypt is the best example of where Salafis have come to power via general elections.In the Era of Mubarak ,Islamist parties were kept on a short leash .If they became too powerful, they would be suppressed, well the Arab Spring came and Mubarak was deposed. What was disappointing was that, although it was the Liberals,Seculars,students and Nasserists who lead the Revolution,it was the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis who attained political power much to the horror of the Secular moderate Muslims and the Christians of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood also narrowly won the Presidency and are now installing a vague Constitution that may allow the implementation of Sharia law in Egypt. Already the Salafis are calling for the demolition of the Pyramids, segregation of beaches(and even of unmarried tourists in what they callhalal tourism),banning of alcohol and more veiling. Kidnapping of Coptic girls is on an all time high and when Parliamentarians tried to pass a bill against human trafficking that would protect such girls, the Salafis claimed that no such thing exists in Egyptian society
The Arab Spring in Tunisia was in my opinion, an Arab disaster! Tunisia shifted from being a secular state to an Islamic one.While Enhada is moderate in its policies, it hasnt stopped the Salafis from taking control of 70% of the mosques in Tunisia nor the violence Salafis have perpetuated against Secular and sufi symbols like art and Sufi Shrines.
However, not all is gloom .Shias have shown remarkable immunity to Salafism.In fact,Shias,except for Iran have always been supporters of Secular states and many are modern.Alawites run Syria which is a secular state.Azerijerban is a model for the Muslim world in Progressive Islam.Ismailis are very progressive and Shia Arabs of Iraq have managed to support a secular state despite the attepts by Al Qaeda to destabilise them.
Salafism has also more or less failed to take hold in the former Soviet state mainly through Government intervention.Tajikstan has used brutal methods but has succeeded from getting an overspill from Afghanistan.Kazakhstan,Turkmenistan,Khrghyzstan remain largely indifferent to the rise in Islamic fundamentalism since even moderate islam had been suppressed for over half a century by Soviet authorities.In Uzebekistan,pockets of extremism exist in remote rural areas but their impact on Uzebek society has been minimal.
Salafism is a dangerous element of Islam and its continuous spread will lead to clashes with other Islamic sects,religions and Secularism in future.We should either look for ways to contain it now or we face a violent future.