Islamic Militancy in West Africa: Ideological Struggles in the Sahel
Public lecture by Dr Bakary Sambe
Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has developed a real strategy of conquest with an increase in the number of specially financed bodies which aim to coordinate preaching. These structures take the form of 'representative' international organisations in order to take on the respectability and the privileged status of NGOs on the increasingly privatised international scene. In this way, movements of different kinds have proliferated to impose Wahhabi ideology on the competing traditional and Sufi Islamic brotherhoods characteristic of much of the Sahel region. At the same time, Iran has increasingly teamed up with local Islamic organisations and actors, notably the Sufi brotherhoods, even though the region is predominantly Sunni. The emergence of a new local Shiite community, as well as the offensive of Salafist movements increasingly structured around combatting Sufism, are changing the map of Islam in West Africa. Since the occupation of North Mali by groups called 'Jihadists', the Sahel region has assumed geostrategic importance for Western powers, notably France. Between the resurgence of competing new forms of religion, the strategic aims of Western powers and security preoccupations of West African states, a real ideological struggle driven by conflicting interests is being played out in this long neglected area of the Muslim world.
Dr Bakary Sambe is an Assistant Professor at Gaston Berger University in Senegal. His specialist subjects are the transnational networks of militant Islamism and Arab-African relations. Dr Sambe holds an MA in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Lumiere University, Lyon, France, and a PhD in Political Science from the Institute of Political Studies, IEP de Lyon. He was formerly a Research Fellow at ISMC during the 2009 Academic Year.