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


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The future of relations between Tanzanian Muslims and the state is in the balance as recriminations between reformists and Bakwata continue, and the outline of potential compromises between Ansar and Lailah Muslims is as yet hard to see. Beyond the acceptance of basic religious practices, being Muslim meant very different things to different people at different times: a privileged connection to coastal sites of exchange for pre-colonial big men; social ascendancy for pre-colonial patricians, but social equality to inter-war immigrants; full participation in the social and ritual life of the village for rural converts in the mid-twentieth century; an increasingly problematic separate allegiance for post-colonial Tanzanians. The permutations of public ritual are covered. The concern about ignorance is not in itself a product of post-colonial political rhetoric. The chapter then discusses the political topography and the distribution of religious affiliations. The history of town and countryside helps in the understanding of the context that has shaped academic representations of Swahili culture as an urban culture. The Ansar and the debate on Islam and modernity are explained. The Islamist movements in the Southeast and East Africa at large draw on allegiances and grievances rooted in both recent and long-term history.

Keywords: Tanzanian Muslims; political topography; religious affiliations; Swahili culture; Ansar; Islam

Chapter.  9389 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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