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.

Do bodies count or do we just count bodies? The tally of victims over the past week continues at a fierce pace. The dead in Yemen are not even being counted as many corpses now are rotting where they fall. UNICEF says only 74 Yemeni children have been killed since the bombing by the Saudi Coalition began, but that is surely an understatement. Hundreds of civilians have died and numerous soldiers and militia on both sides. A few days ago Somali Shabab ruthlessly murdered almost 150 students at Garissa University in Kenya, separating the Christians out from the Muslims. Add this to the killing by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Now in Tikrit mass graves are being found that tell the story of 1700 Iraqi soldiers executed. And ISIS has now taken over most of the Yarmouk Palestinian Camp in Damascus with more dead bodies and many more to come.

We are witnessing a killing frenzy, but the daily reports might as well be a Hollywood film or a shoot-em-up video game. How many bodies must there be before the killing stops? Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen is turning out not to be decisive but divisive, creating chaos in Saudi Arabia’s poor neighbor to the south. The shock-and-awe strategy is no doubt appealing to the arms dealers worldwide; their champagne glasses must be tinkling with every bomb that is dropped. The massive arsenal raining down destruction on Yemen can easily be replaced, but not the bodies of the victims. The killing continues on the ground as well in Yemen, a political nightmare engineered by former President Ali Abdullah Salih to regain power. But what would he regain power over? A country devastated beyond the current economic collapse, a land where his unchecked gluttony left Yemen the poorest country in the region, a people pitted against each other with the encouragement of foreign powers? A pile of corpses as high as a mountain, a mountain of utter despair? (more…)

There are many postcards on the Internet from old Aden under British control. Aden has long been a crossroads between Africa and Asia. It is not surprising that a number of early postcards feature Somalis in Yemen.


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…)

by Setareh Sabety, Huffington Post, April 11, 2014

When my son, a senior at Brandeis University, forwarded me the news of the controversy surrounding the decision to grant an honorary degree to the controversial feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I took her side. I knew about her. She is a Somalian feminist, a champion of banning genital mutilation of girls, and later a member of the Dutch parliament. She reached fame when Theo Van Gogh, the director of Submission, a film that Hirsi had written criticizing women’s treatment in Islam, was killed by a fanatic.

She went too far when she picked on Islam as a particularly violent religion, but as a Muslim-born feminist, I understood her anger. I too have been accused of being Islamophobic when I criticized Islamic views of women. It is easy to become angry after a video clip of a stoning or yet another story of an honor killing. It is easy to hate Islam when your husband threatens to keep you from traveling, or when the waiter tells you to cover your hair better in a restaurant. In Iran, where Sharia, or Islamic, law is imposed by force, women like me “hate” Islam on a daily basis. For Hirsi Ali, coming from the especially violent Somalia, undergoing genital mutilation herself, and witnessing the death of a colleague even in the relative safety of Europe, it must have been horrendous. I can see how her experiences could make her take sides and lose patience.That is why, initially, I supported her receiving an honorary doctorate from Brandeis. When the Muslim Student Association gathered enough signatures from both students and faculty to force a cancellation, I was impressed by the passion of the students, and by their convincing arguments about condoning hate speech. But, still, I had mixed feelings about canceling someone I considered a sister-in-arms against radical Islam. Hirsi Ali is not an Islamophobe. She is not afraid of Islam. She is fed up with it. I am too. As a woman who fled Iran because she did not want to be forced into the hijab or banned from travel by her husband, I understand Hirsi Ali on a deep and visceral level. (more…)

Veiled Somali Girls Playing [“xalaal”] Soccer

Soccer: A barometer of Al Shabab’s retreat in Somalia

By James M. Dorsey, Mideast Soccer Blog, October 5, 2012

Soccer is one barometer of the increasingly successful drive to deprive militant Al Shabab fighters of their grip on large chunks of war-torn Somalia.

With the recent withdrawal of the Al Qaida-linked militants from the port city of Kismayo, the last major rebel-held town, the increasing return of soccer to a football-crazy country where under Al Shahab rule enthusiasm for the beautiful game involved a greater act of courage and defiance than perhaps anywhere else in the world and soccer became a front line in the battle against the Islamists, football highlights the country’s changing battle lines.

The extent of Al Shabab’s retreat is evident from the fact that a campaign that started with the Somali Football Association (SFA) backed by local businessmen and world soccer body FIFA luring child soldiers away from Al Shabab which banned the playing and watching of soccer, and turning them into national youth team stars has mushroomed into the revival of national and regional competitions. For the first time in more than two decades, matches are being played at night, teams travel in relative safety within the country and war-ravaged sports facilities, including Mogadishu’s national stadium, once one of East Africa’s most impressive filled with 70,000 passionate fans during games that was used by the Al Shabab as an arms depot and training facility, are being refurbished. (more…)

2012 Rift Valley Institute Field courses: applications open

The Institute’s annual field courses offer an intensive, graduate-level approach to the history, culture and political economy of three subregions: Sudan and South Sudan; the Horn of Africa; and the Great Lakes. The courses consist of a six-day dawn-to-dusk programme of lectures, seminars and panel discussions, led by international specialists and scholars and activists from the region. Dates and locations are as follows:

– Sudan and South Sudan Course, Rumbek, S. Sudan, 26 May-1 June

– Horn of Africa Course, near Mombasa, Kenya, 16-22 June

– Great Lakes Course, Bujumbura, Burundi, 7-13 July

Download the prospectus at the site and/or apply online here. For further information (or to request the application form as a Microsoft Word document), email Applications will be considered in order of receipt.

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