Internal debates and international influences: the rise of Islamic radicalism in the 1990s

Felicitas Becker

in Becoming Muslim in Mainland Tanzania, 1890-2000

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780197264270
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734182 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Internal debates and international influences: the rise of Islamic radicalism in the 1990s

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Although the synchronicity of the rise of Muslim radicalism in East Africa with similar phenomena in many parts of the world gives that radicalism the appearance of an unstoppable ideological tide, it is intricately connected to recent political and economic changes in Tanzania. It is shown that while the Ansar of Southeast Tanzania formed part of a transregional reformist current, their confrontational style and inflammatory rhetoric were directed against the specific conjunction of the political and religious authority they faced at home. The reformist debates and Muslim discontent in East Africa after independence are explained. In addition to the above, this chapter elaborates on the crisis of the urban economy and of the tarika. The parallelism of political and trade liberalization has made commercial strength a potential basis for the pursuance of political aims. It is difficult to present a conclusive account of the Ansar in Southeast Tanzania, since their role is still unfolding. The attack on Muslim notables and their relations with government are illustrated. The proactive and calculated response of the authorities to the actions of the Ansar indicates that Tanzanian politicians take the provinces more seriously than is immediately apparent to the outside observer.

Keywords: Islamic radicalism; reformist debates; Muslim notables; Ansar; Southeast Tanzania; urban economy; tarika; liberalization

Chapter.  15076 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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