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Trends in the Transformation within African Islam, South of the Sahara

Panel Chair: Egodi Uchendu | Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Islam in sub-Saharan Africa has acquired its own distinct characteristics over the centuries that have considerably engaged scholars of religions in attempts to deconstruct them. Each century seems to present new directions in its manifestations. With the onset of the twenty-first century, the two strongly opposing forces of Salafism and Sufism began to compete for dominance in sub-Saharan African Muslim communities. The impact is felt most in West Africa where religious cohesion within the Islamic world has been severely tested by these centrifugal forces. Our panel will focus on the trends in the on-going transformations in Muslim communities in sub-Saharan Africa. In doing this, it will explore a variety of factors at the core of the (re)shaping of Muslim communities in both suburban and cosmopolitan centres of sub-Saharan Africa within the last two decades. The discourses will revolve around Nigeria, Cameroun, and Indian diaspora communities in West Africa. However, we invite additional papers addressing current transformations in other Muslim societies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Amidu Sanni

New Phase of Religiosity and Ethical Renewal in Sudanic Africa: A Narrative from Nigeria

Salafism as a renewal of orthodoxy and orthopraxis has been identified with the Islamic world (Meijer 2012). But for Ihle (2003), and more recently Østebø (2012) and Loimeier (2013), Africa, south of the Sahara, is all but discussed in the Western discursive tradition of the phenomenon of peaceful creedal and ethical change. My paper intends to illustrate two different but interrelated tendencies of revivalist and ethical activism among the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria. One is individualistic, the other is communal. At the heart of the former is the promotion of the sense of personal responsibility in a public sphere. The other tendency which has the society as its sphere of operation, has political goals which are ultimately rooted in Islamizing all aspects of life. My paper will focus on the activities and challenges of the individualistic group which has found new local expressions for the quieter forms of reform, religiosity, and ethical renewal.

Gilbert Taguem-Fah

Shaping Faith and Fuelling Identity: Political Economy of the Shift in the Dynamics of Islam in the City of Ngaoundere-Cameroon

This paper seeks to address new forms of expression and modes of adaptation of Islam in the Muslim city of Ngaoundere (North-Cameroon). With a multiple level perspective, the reflexion will be based on the Center for Education and Development (CEDEV) - a Ngaoundere-based Islamic institution – in order to shed light on coping strategies that are transforming local Islamic landscapes. The main hypothesis is that the new expression and modes of adaptation that inform and fuel the ongoing Islamic identity appear both situational and structural. Empirical data and local Muslim leaders’ rhetoric will be used as materials. As training and learning institution, the CEDEV appears as the expression of the combination of faith-based responses to challenges faced by the Muslim community with the competence-building of young Muslims that aims at matching the spiritual with the secular. The paper will draw a more holistic picture of the phenomenon under study by (1) mapping out the current Islamic dynamics in Ngaoundere-Cameroon; (2) situating the CEDEV in its context, while unveiling its hidden agenda. It will end up (3) by demonstrating that the CEDEV is a critical “agency” in the new Muslim identity-in-the-making in Ngaoundere.

Shobana Shankar

Indian Religious Dissenters and the Search for Asylum in West Africa

This project explores the migration of Ahmadiyya Muslim missionaries to West African cities like Accra, Lagos, and Kano. West African cities have long histories of asylum and hospitality for strangers, particularly Muslim scholars. Ahmadiyya did not simply fit into West African networks because of a presumed common history of colonial oppression, nor did they remain separate from their African hosts. Rather, they appear to have been variously connected to anti-jihadi movements in South Asia, workers’ rights movements in England, Garveyism in the United States and West Africa, and strict gender reforms while putting emphasis on women’s education. The Ahmadiyya were transformed by their relationships with local communities in a world of fading empires, newly-forming nation-states, and new modes of humanitarianism. This movement was inextricably bound in cosmopolitan religious networks and exchanges that stood in an ambivalent tension to both nation-states and secular internationalism.


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