How we talk about Islam in Mali and Beyond

Over at Sahel Blog, Alex Thurston has a typically excellent piece rebutting Sebastian Elischer’s arguments about Islam in Mali, particularly Elischer’s characterizations of Salafism in the country. Alex makes a number of important points in the piece, especially with regards to the fluidity of Salafi belief and practice (as opposed to the “tri-partite” division of Salafis into “quietist”, “politicos” and “jihadis”), the danger of outsiders picking “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”, and the difficulties in labeling Salafi or Wahhabi actors like High Islamic Council President Mahmoud Dicko as “anti-democratic”.

These are all necessary distinctions that have become increasingly important as African and international governments discuss not just extremist violence but also counter-radicalization programs. These discussions often revolve not just around questions of correct belief and practice, but also on the governance of Islam, and by extension the governance of Muslim believers. One corollary of this governing imperative is not just the distinction between “good” and “bad”, but the idea that the “good” is local, African, and traditional, and that the “bad” is foreign, most commonly associated with the Arab world and particularly the Gulf countries.

While scholars of Islam in Africa have long disputed or critiqued these notions, they remain surprisingly prevalent in popular conceptions of Islam in Africa. In November, the Senegalese President Macky Sall spoke to the opening of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, where he stated that “we cannot accept models that correspond neither to our conception nor our traditions of Islam…[models] imposed in Africa simply because Africans are poor and there is a need to finance mosques and schools.” This corresponds with a popular narrative that Salafism and Wahhabism — the two terms are often incorrectly glossed — came to West Africa from the outside as an imposition that disrupted previous African Islamic beliefs, and that the subsequent spread of these ideas can be traced to Gulf money and the work of missionary groups like the Jama’at al-Tabligh.

There is certainly some truth to these ideas, but they also fail to capture the nuanced and complex history of Islam in Africa, and they also engage in some very problematic ideas of Islam on the continent writ-large. Historically, the drivers of Islamic reform in Africa were Africans, whether that reform came under the auspices of Sufi jihads in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, or people more closely identified with Salafism in the 20th century. These Muslims were often in contact with other parts of the Muslim world from Algeria to Egypt to Saudi Arabia to India, but that should not be surprising. Africa has never been detached from the world as colonial officials thought, and there is no reason why African Muslims would not be aware and part of the intellectual and political movements impacting other parts of the Muslim umma. Chanfi Ahmed’s new book, for instance, demonstrates the role that West African ‘Ulama played in shaping and promoting Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia as well as among African and other non-Saudi populations. Religious conversion or the adoption of new or different ideas and practices happened with the influence of outsiders, yes, but also through the intervention and choices of Africans. There is no immutable tradition or isolated African Islam that was simply swept aside by Salafism, but a process of negotiation and change that involves much more than just Saudi money flowing into Africa.

West Africa broadly and Mali more specifically provide a very good case study for understanding some of this complexity. The reformist movements over the past several hundred years in the region have more often been led by religious leaders associated with a Sufi brotherhood like the Qadiriyya or the Tijaniyya. The first major modern reformist movement in West Africa, the Ittihad al-Thaqafi al-Islami or Muslim Cultural Union (UCM in French), can be considered Salafi in orientation* but grew almost exclusively out of the work done by members of prominent Sufi families who had previously rejected some of the major religious practices associated with Sufism in West Africa in the early part of the 20th century. Additionally, the UCM’s efforts to modernize education and spread Arabic paralleled those of “reformist” Sufi ‘Ulama like the Senegalese Tijani Sheikh Ibrahima Niasse and the Malian Tijani figure al-Hajj Sa’ad Oumar Touré. Touré is widely regarded as the most influential figure in shaping contemporary Arabic education in Mali, and his madrasa in Segou educated a number of prominent Malian religious figures, including the more “traditional” religious leader Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara.

So in Mali, religious and educational reform that helped create what Robert Launay and Benjamin Soares called the “Islamic sphere” in West Africa was the work of Salafis but also Sufis, and all of them closely in-tune with local political struggles as well as international changes in Islam. And even today, for all of the talk about Salafis as challenging the ostensibly secular state in places like Mali, Sufi and “post-Sufi” leaders do just as much to bring Islam into the public sphere and influence the state in various ways. Both Salafis like Dicko and “moderates” like Haidara mobilize followers and ideas in ways that influence the state and shape its politics and character. That can have important implications for counter radicalization, but also for the issues that have much more of an impact on the lives of everyday people on issues ranging from government services to Family Codes.

In trying to promote one over the other, governments can still end up reinforcing the role of religion in politics and public life, whether in West Africa, North Africa, or the Middle East. I am neither African nor Muslim, and it is not for me to say whether or not this is a good thing. But a narrow focus on counterterrorism and counter radicalization — however defined and implemented — often misses the broader impact of security-focused policies for the societies in question.

*The UCM’s exact ideological orientation is a bit difficult to characterize, but most scholars characterize them as reformist, and they pushed for moral and educational improvement, the teaching of Arabic, and attacked some common Sufi practices that they characterized as bid’a. They also referred frequently to thinkers like Muhammad ‘Abduh and Rachid Rida, and spoke of the need to return to the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.

 

May the force (of history) be with you

I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m a sucker for the kind of pop culture hot takes that are sucking up an increasing amount of social media oxygen. These have taken a particularly intense turn with the impending release of the new Star Wars movie, which has sent writers and editors scurrying into the click mines. As political scientists Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Daniel Nexon noted in their excellent piece on the relationship between pop culture and political science, “It’s as if a thousand editors cried out for clickbait, and no one had the courage to silence them.” Hear hear.

Jackson and Nexon make a series of thoughtful and important points in the article, but the most important is that many of the writers opining about the relationship between fictional worlds and contemporary politics  simply transpose a fictional world onto our own in order to reveal some ambiguous, tenuous “lesson” about our daily lives. As the authors note, “if you’re going to use a fictional universe to make an argument, you have to adhere to the basic rules of that universe. Not everyone does.”

For the authors, this failure to account for context and the fictional texts themselves means we lose the ability to read or watch them for their actual messages about politics and society. At the same time, directionless analysis that looks for lessons about politics from Emperor Palpatine (but seriously, who thinks this is a good idea?) also makes for bad interpretations of our own world. The fictional can approximate the real world, but it remains only an approximation, one that works according to the story that scribes and filmmakers want to tell. Search elsewhere for answers, you must.

But for all of the problematic constructs that Jackson and Nexon correctly document and dismantle, they are missing one important word: Anachronism. In very brief, anachronism is the act of applying one environment, context, or set of ideas to another time and place — or a galaxy far, far away — where these concepts do not necessarily apply or have the same meaning.

I have no doubt at all that the authors know and take the concept to heart. After all, what they described and critiqued in their article is anachronism in every sense. So why does the word matter? For me, the importance of the word lies in what its absence illustrates about some fundamental differences between political science and historical analysis.

I do not want to put too fine a disciplinary point on this issue, since people are not their academic disciplines, and vice-versa. Many, many political scientists appreciate and stress the value of context, deep experiences of places and people acquired through study and fieldwork, and the avoidance of choosing frameworks that overgeneralize in the quest to make larger points about political order.

However, the field itself does not place the same emphasis on avoiding anachronism as History does, and that matters. Historians are not always saints in the avoidance of anachronism, but it is widely considered a “sin” in the field, one of the worst you can commit. Historians at every level of study from high school to graduate training are inculcated in the horrors of anachronism. When I begin a class I explain the concept to my students and talk about it at length with them so that they can keep it in mind throughout the term.

Sometimes this emphasis can go too far, where historians overcontextualize or avoid frameworks for fear of omitting important details, as the historian and sociologist William Sewell wrote in The Logics of History. But the focus on avoiding anachronism  is also a key analytical strength of History. It forces students and practitioners alike to ask difficult questions about their sources, weigh incomplete and uneven information in light of what we know, what we think we know, and what we do not know, and also take note of the ways in which our experiences and perspectives can both inform and occlude our perspectives on the past and present.

This fine-grained attention is crucial both for historical and contemporary analysis, where one can only understand how things change over time with a careful understanding of different contexts at all levels of a study. And maybe, just maybe, it will cool the ardor of hot take warriors before they opine blithely on destroying far-away worlds in the name of page views.

Updates, reflections, and a few new articles

This post will be part personal update, part promotional entry, and part reflection on the past few years and resurrecting a dormant blog. When I started al-Wasat with my good friend Aaron Zelin, we intended it to be a chance to explore at length some of the niche issues that interested us. In that time, many of these issues have become less niche, while we’ve also both moved on to some different but related things.

When I went back to school in the fall of 2013 to pursue a PhD in African History, I consciously took a step back from the kind of policy-related writing I’d done in the past. I’ve stayed active (too active) on Twitter, but while I’ve continued to occasionally write articles and short essays, much of my attention has been focused on my academic work. Now I’ve finished coursework, passed my language qualifications, and begun the process of applying for research fellowships and reading for my comprehensive exams in the spring. While this is a busy time, it’s also a good one for me to reflect a bit on the relationship between academic work and more contemporary research.

In my time in academia I’ve found that while many people are more open to engagement with the world outside, even though the stereotype of the Ivory Tower academic is only partly true at best. Many people instead already do engage extensively with non-academic subjects and themes, and others want to do the same but are not quite sure how. For historians in particular, it can be challenging to relate research into the past to contemporary life. It can also be difficult to find time for this work when academic programs and job markets do not generally reward things like blog posts, articles, and media appearances.

This is changing rapidly, and there are already fantastic examples of scholars doing deeply researched, rigorous work about the past and present that remain connected to the contemporary world in interesting and new ways, whether at Jadaliyya, Alex Thurston’s Sahel Blog, Malika Rahal’s Textures du Temps, or elsewhere. These blogs and the people who run them have helped inspire my own commentary and writing for years, and will continue to do so.

Along those lines, I’m going to take more time in the coming months and years to write publicly again about the issues and parts of the world that interest me the most, namely North and West Africa. My goal is to stay engaged in current debates while also using my historical research and training in different ways. In doing so, I want to explore not just the connections between the past and the present but also how historical methods can inform analysis.

Those kinds of reflections and the personal connections to events far away were part of a piece I co-wrote with Prof. Gregory Mann for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog on the recent attacks in Paris and Bamako. In that piece and another for Al Jazeera America, I emphasized the Malian context for the Bamako attacks and Mali’s eroding security environment. And in a wide-ranging conversation with Karl Morand for his excellent Middle East Week podcast, I talked about the history of jihadist mobilization in the Sahara and Sahel and the impact of France’s 2013 intervention in Mali, the resonance and explanations for this violence beyond a local framework, how people talk about politics and violence in Africa, and how I view the role of historical methodologies in understanding current affairs. I will continue to explore these and related ideas in some upcoming writing about Mali as well as Algeria and Morocco for different publications.

In the meantime, I’ll use this space to do some less formal writing, to flesh out ideas, and to continue the kind of dialogue I’d like to see take place about the concepts, issues, and places that are important to me. Stay tuned.

IN PICTURES: Faces of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan

-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

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See a 3-part photo essay on the late Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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UPDATED NOVEMBER 7 (10:19 A.M. EST):

Maulana Fazlullah (Mullah Fazlullah)Maulana (Mullah) Fazlullah, the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan leader in the Swat valley who has reportedly been elected the new amir of the TTP umbrella organization.

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Khan Said (Sajna) Sejena and deputy Ikhlas YaarKhan Said (Sejena, Sajna), reportedly the newly-elected amir of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (left) and his deputy, Ikhlas Yaar.

Maulana Fazlullah (Ustad Fateh) Ustadh Fateh (Ustad Fatih)Ustadh (Ustad) Fatih (Fateh), a Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan military commander in Swat (far left) with Swat Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah (center).

Mawlawi Kaleemullah (Bajaur agency)Mawlawi Kaleemullah (Bajaur agency)Omar Khalid Khorasani‘Umar Khalid Khurasani (Omar Khalid Khorasani), [center], Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan commander in Mohmand agency.

Khan Said (Sajna) SejenaKhan Said (Sejena, Sajna) of the Mehsud tribe in Waziristan.

Sejena (Khan Said) SajnaKhan Said (Sejena, Sajna), (far right) of the Mehsud tribe in Waziristan.

Shahidullah Shahid (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan spokesman)Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

Shahidullah Shahid (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan spokesman) 2Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

Shakil Ahmad Haqqani (Mohmand agency)Shakil Ahmad Haqqani (Mohmand agency)

Ustad Fateh (Ustad Fatih) and Mawlawi Fateh (Maulana Fateh) Maulana Fatih (Khyber agency)Ustadh (Ustad) Fatih (Fateh), military commander (left) and Mawlawi Fatih (Fateh), Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan leader in the Khyber agency.

Hafiz Sa'id Khan (Orakzai agency) Hafiz Saeed 2Hafiz Sa'id Khan (Orakzai agency) Hafiz Saeed 3Hafiz Sa'id Khan (Orakzai agency) Hafiz Saeed 4Hafiz Sa'id Khan (Orakzai agency) Hafiz SaeedHafiz Sa’id Khan (Hafiz Saeed), Tehrik-i Taliban leader in Orakzai agency.

UntitledIhsanullah Ihsan, senior spokesman of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan.

Baitullah MehsudThe late founder-leader of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan, Baytullah Mehsud.

IN PICTURES: Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan’s Late Leader, Hakimullah Mehsud: Part 3

-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

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See Part 1 of this photo essay HERE.

See Part 2 of this photo essay HERE.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 4

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 3

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and Hajji Nur Islam (Noor Islam)Hakimullah Mehsud with Hajji Nur Islam (left), one of the Pashtun tribal supporters of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and Muhammad Tahir Faruq (Muhammad Tohir Farooq)Hakimullah Mehsud and the late founder-leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Muhammad Tahir Faruq (right), who died in 2009 of wounds suffered that year from a U.S. drone missile strike.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) after drone strike (dead) body (killed)Photograph circulating on jihadi web sites purportedly showing Hakimullah Mehsud shortly after he was killed in a U.S. drone missile strike on November 1, 2013.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) dead (martyred)“By the Lord of the Ka’ba, I have succeeded!” (Saying attributed in the Sunni tradition to a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad and in the Shi’i tradition to Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib).

IN PICTURES: Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan’s Late Leader, Hakimullah Mehsud: Part 2

-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

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See Part 1 of this photo essay HERE.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) Waliur Rehman Mehsud (Wali al-Rahman Mehsud) and Ihsanullah IhsanHakimullah Mehsud with Waliur Rahman Mehsud, the late deputy commander of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and head of Mehsud Taliban forces (left), and TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) Waliur Rehman Mehsud (Wali al-Rahman Mehsud)Hakimullah Mehsud with Waliur Rahman Mehsud, the late deputy commander of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and head of Mehsud Taliban forces (left).

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) & Faisal Shahzad

Hakimullah Mehsud meeting with Faisal Shahzad, who traveled to Pakistan to receive training from the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan and tried, but failed, to construct and set off a working vehicle bomb in Times Square in New York City in 2010.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 3

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 4Hakimullah Mehsud leading prayers.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 5

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 6

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud)Photograph of Hakimullah Mehsud meeting with a Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan commander days before his killing in a U.S. drone strike on November 1, 2013.

IN PICTURES: Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan’s Late Leader, Hakimullah Mehsud: Part 1

-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

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See Part 2 of this photo essay HERE.

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) Abu Zarr Azzam (Abu Zarr Pakistani ( Abu Zarr Burmi)Hakimullah Mehsud with Abu Zarr al-Pakistani (Abu Zarr al-Burmi, Abu Zarr ‘Azzam), a religious scholar and preacher affiliated with both the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.  The latter formerly was a teacher at the Jami’at Faruqiyya school in Karachi and the mentor to Qari Husayn Mehsud of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) Abu Zarr Azzam (Abu Zarr Pakistani ( Abu Zarr Burmi) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and Usman Adil  (Uthman Adil) Usman Odil 2Hakimullah Mehsud with Abu Usman Adil (left), the late leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in April 2012 by a U.S. drone.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and Usman Adil  (Uthman Adil) Usman Odil 3Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) and Usman Adil  (Uthman Adil) Usman Odil

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 4Hakimullah Mehsud with the late founder-leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Muhammad Tahir Faruq (far left), who died in 2009 of wounds suffered in a U.S. drone missile strike.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 5Hakimullah Mehsud with Muhammad Tahir Faruq.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) with Humam al-BalawiHakimullah Mehsud with Dr. Humam al-Balawi, the Jordanian jihadi who tricked the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Jordanian intelligence into thinking he was working for them.  Al-Balawi, aided by the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan and Al-Qa’ida Central, carried out a “martyrdom operation” inside the U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan on December 30, 2009, killing seven CIA agents, including the station chief, and his Jordanian security services handler.

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) with Muhammad Tahir FaruqHakimullah Mehsud with Muhammad Tahir Faruq and Hajji Nur (far left), one of the local Pashtun tribal figures who aid the “mujahideen.”

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 1

Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 2

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Hakimullah Mehsud (Hakeemullah Mehsud) 3

Who is Tunisia’s Salafi Cleric Shaykh al-Khatib al-Idrisi?

Tonight it was reported by Express FM that Shaykh al-Khatib al-Idrisi was arrested in Sidi Ali Ben Aoun (in the governorate of Sidi Bouzid), where there has been recent violence in the past couple of days. On Wednesday afternoon after an exchange of fire occurred between militants and national guardsmen, six national guard officers were killed and four were wounded. Contrary to the article from Express FM, al-Idrisi is not the founder of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST). In fact, he’s not even a member of the group at all. He is though one of, if not the most well-respected Salafi clerics within Tunisia as well as North Africa writ-large. More importantly, though, he is also viewed as a key unaffiliated spiritual guide for members of AST. His arrest will likely further galvanize those in AST and harden their belief that the state is at war with Islam and will never allow them to practice it as they see fit. It also could push AST away from its dawa-first approach and move into a more terrorism-first approach (something that Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has been hypothesizing would eventually happen), which would make it more like a classical jihadi organization.

Who Is He?

According to the biography that al-Idrisi has self-posted on his official Facebook page, al-Idrisi was born in 1373 H (1953/1954) in the city of Sidi Bouzid and is blind. In 1406 H (1985) al-Idrisi traveled to Saudi Arabia to learn Islamic scholarship under Wahhabi clerics. He studied with Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id al-Qahtani, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz bin Baz, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, Shaykh Salih al-Luhaydan, and Shaykh Sa’id Shafa, among others. He spent nine years studying and focused on the sciences of shari’ah and ethics. According to al-Idrisi, he was influenced by the Saudi sahwa movement, which is viewed by scholars as politico-Salafis. When he returned to Tunisia in 1415 H (1994) he wanted to apply their strategy to Tunisia.

Al-Idrisi’s return to Tunisia has been viewed as a turning point where Salafism begins to pick up a larger following within Tunisia, especially around the university. According to Allison Pargeter, unlike the violent trends, Ben Ali’s regime looked the other way with regard to the non-violent Salafis. After the December 2006-January 2007 showdown between Tunisian security and a jihadi cell named Jund Asad ibn al-Furat (more famously known as the Sulayman Group), the Tunisian state arrested al-Idrisi for allegedly penning a fatwa that sanctioned jihadi activity (though there are many who believe these were made up charges and that al-Idrisi was actually against these attacks). He was sentenced to two years in prison and was released from prison in January 2009.

Post-Tunisian Revolution

Since the fall of the Ben Ali regime, al-Idrisi appeared to be gaining even more popularity within Tunisia and the greater Salafi world. His work has been posted to Shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi’s Minbar at-Tawhid wa-l-Jihad’s website, which is a library of Salafi-jihadi primary sources. Al-Idrisi has also been loosely affiliated with al-Qayrawan Media Foundation, which was established in April 2011 and gained accredation on global jihadis’ premiere forum Shamukh al-Islam in January 2012. There is also a large affinity for al-Idrisi by individuals in AST (more on this below). Based on al-Idrisi’s recent interactions with Salafi-jihadi scholars, while not as popular, one can compare him to the likes of al-Maqdisi, Shaykh Abu Basir al-Tartusi, Shaykh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, or Shaykh Abu Qatadah al-Filistini insofar as although they promote and sympathize with the global jihadi cause they are more interested in the intellectual and scholarly aspects of the movement rather than joining the battlefield.

Relations With AST

Based off of field research I have conducted, I have learned that one of the first things that the original AST core did after being pardoned from prison in March 2011 was to reach out to al-Idrisi. Although there is more public distance between al-Idrisi and AST currently, when AST first began, al-Idrisi promoted its existence and early activities via his official Facebook page. AST’s early outreach to al-Idrisi highlights that it wanted strong backing from the ‘ulama to legitimize its cause. Since the spring of 2012, al-Idrisi has been less public in his support for AST. There are rumors that al-Idrisi and Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi, the leader of AST, differed over strategies and tactics partially because Abu Iyadh was viewed as too activist and political for him. It appears that the current relationship between the two is more seen as an unaffiliated outside spiritual guide and that Abu Iyadh is the link between al-Idrisi and grassroots AST members. Al-Idrisi is who AST members look to for religious advice since they view him as one of the few legitimate clerics out there.

What’s Next?

It is likely that one will begin to see an online campaign for the release of al-Idrisi, not only from AST and other jihadis, but also from more mainstream Salafis as well who respect him as a scholar. This arrest, if it is true, and is not one where is he released quickly, could further push AST up the escalation chain of radicalization and into more overt violence. It is still too early to know exactly how this will play out, but no doubt it will be another key turning point in the relationship between AST and the state.

IN PICTURES: Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, Part 9: Military Forces Rally in Buulobarde, Hiraan region

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 7

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-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

Other  photo essays on the Somali jihadi-insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen:

-Part 1 can be viewed HERE

-Part 2 can be viewed HERE

-Part 3 can be viewed HERE

-Part 4 can be viewed HERE

-Part 5 can be viewed HERE

-Part 6 can be viewed HERE

-Part 7 can be viewed HERE

-”Omar “Abu Mansur al-Amriki” Hammami: The Rise & Fall of an American Jihadi in Somalia” can be viewed HERE

-Part 8 can be viewed HERE

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Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 5

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 1

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 2

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 3

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 4

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 6

 

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 5

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 4

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 3

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 2

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Buulobarde) 1

IN PICTURES: Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, Part 8: Defiance in Baraawe for ‘Eid al-Adha

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) Ali Rage (Ali Dheere) 3Al-Shabab’s official spokesman, ‘Ali Rage (‘Ali Dheere)

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-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)

Other  photo essays on the Somali jihadi-insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen:

-Part 1 can be viewed HERE

-Part 2 can be viewed HERE

-Part 3 can be viewed HERE

-Part 4 can be viewed HERE

-Part 5 can be viewed HERE

-Part 6 can be viewed HERE

-Part 7 can be viewed HERE

-“Omar “Abu Mansur al-Amriki” Hammami: The Rise & Fall of an American Jihadi in Somalia” can be viewed HERE

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Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 1

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 2

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 3

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 4

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 5

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 6

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 7

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) 8

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) Ali Rage (Ali Dheere) 1

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) Ali Rage (Ali Dheere) 2

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) Al-Shabab (Baraawe, Eid al-Adha) Muhammad Abu Abdullah (governor, wali of Lower Shabelle)Muhammad Abu ‘Abdullah, Al-Shabab’s governor (wali) of Lower Shabelle

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 1

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 2

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 3

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 4

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 5Muhammad Abu ‘Abdullah, Al-Shabab’s governor (wali) of Lower Shabelle

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 6

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 7

Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabab) Al-Shabaab (Baraawe) 8

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