Islamic Africa is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, academic journal published online and in print. Incorporating the journal Sudanic Africa, Islamic Africa publishes original research concerning Islam in Africa from the social sciences and the humanities, as well as primary source material and commentary essays related to Islamic Studies in Africa. The journal’s geographic scope includes the entire African continent and adjacent islands. Islamic Africa encourages intellectual excellence and seeks to promote scholarly interaction between Africa-based scholars and those located institutionally outside the continent.

by Hasan Azad, al-Jazeera, July 11, 2014

What do the Islamic State, Boko Haram and the Taliban all have in common? Extremism? Caliphatism? Violence? All these things are merely incidental to these groups. What is essential to them is that they are all thoroughly modern formations. So what do I mean by this, given that they tend to strike us as the very antithesis of modernity?

First of all, it is crucial to ask ourselves what it is that we understand by modernity. We assume that modernity means reason, science, freedom, justice, racial, gender, and sexual equality. These are the assumptions. They are the ideals that are projected by a strident western discourse, where the West is seen as their progenitor and purveyor.

Perhaps it will strike the reader as a little odd if I say that these ideals are far from being realised within the West. That there are massive inequalities of sexualities, of genders and of races in the West. That western freedom, whether political, economic or consumerist, comes at the expense of the freedom of people living in non-western countries.

And this lack of freedom runs far and deep, reaching into the history of how non-European people were made to think during colonial times. For example, any serious study of the history of colonialism and its educational projects in its colonies reveals the extent to which Europe reconfigured indigenous modes of knowing with its own mode of thinking – a manner of thinking which has its roots in the Enlightenment, with its own idiosyncratic means of reasoning. (more…)

By James M. Dorsey, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, June 22

It’s not just soccer fans whose football fever soars during a World Cup. So does that of militant Islamists and jihadists with deadly consequences. Scores of fans have been killed since this month’s kick-off of the Cup in attacks in Iraq, Kenya and Nigeria.

The attacks by the likes of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram appear to have become a World Cup fixture with similar random slaughter having occurred during the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

They reflect the diversity of opinion among jihadists on the merits of soccer as well as a degree of opportunism among all jihadists, irrespective of their attitude towards the beautiful game, in exploiting its popularity whether by seeking to maximise publicity by targeting fans during the tournament or using it as a recruitment tool.

The attacks occurred against the backdrop of a series of statements and fatwas, religious opinions, by militant clerics, often Salafis who seek to emulate to the degree possible 7th century life at the time of the Prophet Mohammed and his immediate successors who are not jihadists, condemning soccer as an infidel game that is intended to divert the faithful from their religious obligations or create divisiveness. (more…)

Here is a snap question: which does more harm to the image of Muslims, especially in the Western media: the political maneuvering of Egypt’s now outlawed “Muslim Brotherhood” or the savage acts committed by the self-styled Boko Haram in Nigeria? Boko Haram is well named, if you remove the Boko. I would have a hard time thinking of a more bloodthirsty and irrational group calling themselves Muslims, and there are far too many examples to choose from historically. Their kidnapping of some 276 Nigerian girls from a school to essentially enslave them is bad enough, but reports now surface of an indiscriminate killing spree in a crowded Nigerian market with over 300 said to be dead. The death toll from this group is measured in the thousands, both Christians and fellow Muslims becoming victims. Boko Haram espouses such a distorted view of Islam, that it is more accurate to label them a political terrorist group using the umbrella of Islam to carry out their barbaric acts.

Boko Haram is not alone. It is this kind of volatile mix of politics and religion that has plagued human history, probably from the start of recorded history. If one steps out of the Western preoccupation with the biblical tradition, the idea that any kind of just God would tell his ragged followers to kill every man, woman, child, ox, sheep and ass in a Canaanite city is a clear attempt to justify what most of us would rightly see today as a violation of human rights. The crusades and the bloody wars in Europe between Protestants and Catholics turned religion into yet another excuse to justify killing others. Hindus and Buddhists also have their blood-soaked moments, as do most known religions. The point is that “religion” is never separate from the real world except in some imaginary. It is myth that drives belief, whether from a sacred text written in a shroud of mystery or the quotidian alibi of personal experience. Those who take on the mantle of “God” show how little faith they really have. (more…)

from The Economist, Feb 4th 2012

ONE leaflet showed a wooden doll hanging from a noose and suggested burning or stoning homosexuals. “God Abhors You” read another. A third warned gays: “Turn or Burn”. Three Muslim men who handed out the leaflets in the English city of Derby were convicted of hate crimes on January 20th. One of them, Kabir Ahmed, said his Muslim duty was “to give the message”.

That message—at least in the eyes of religious purists— is uncompromising condemnation. Of the seven countries that impose the death penalty for homosexuality, all are Muslim. Even when gays do not face execution, persecution is endemic. In 2010 a Saudi man was sentenced to 500 lashes and five years in jail for having sex with another man. In February last year, police in Bahrain arrested scores of men, mostly other Gulf nationals, at a “gay party”. Iranian gay men are typically tried on other trumped-up charges. But in September last year three were executed specifically for homosexuality. (Lesbians in Muslim countries tend to have an easier time: in Iran they are sentenced to death only on the fourth conviction.) (more…)

There is a dangerous dualism that has haunted Islamic societies since the very start of the faith. I am speaking about the haram that results from individuals and groups that seek to enforce a distinction between haram and halal through violence. The recent waves of sectarian killings are a chilling reminder of the harm that can be caused in the name of stamping out haram. In the north of Nigeria, as reported by al Jazeera, as many as 150 people may have been killed in a single day by Boko Haram, a militant group whose name means “Western education is sacrilege.” The irony of this name is tragic. When I think of the hadith “Seek Knowledge even unto China,” I do not think that the Prophet only meant to look eastward for knowledge. When I think of the extraordinary contributions Muslim scientists and philosophers made to the earlier classical heritage of knowledge, I do not think the Prophet would have disapproved. When I think of sacrilege, I remember that the Prophet forbade his followers to violate the truce of the sacred month and prohibited those who fought for him from mutilating the bodies of those who fought against him. There is much that is haram in this world, but it appears that the value of human life is not as sacred for some Muslims as it is for Allah as the Merciful One or for Muhammad as a Prophet for peace. (more…)