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Salafism & Jihadism

Salafism, a type of radical political Islam, has become a contagious youth movement in Germany as well as in many other countries. Scholars and politicians have tended to attribute that development chiefly to deficits in the countries of immigration, that is, lack of acceptance of the post-migrants, their experiences of discrimination, and their comparatively poor level of educational qualification. However, this scenario does neither explain the large number of converts in the Salafist movement nor the fact that youths from privileged families are active in its ranks. In addition, any explanatory reduction to internal factors ignores the fact that the militant variant of Salafism, Jihadism, is a global phenomenon which has become a serious social problem in almost all countries dominated by Sunna Islam. The local and national contexts of Salafism and Jihadism are very diverse. In some parts of the world Salafists and Jihadists have profited from the electoral success of Islamist parties. In others, ethnic tensions have worked to their advantage. In many cases they have benefited from weak state structures. Islamist extremism is also nourished by failed policies of intervention and integration. While its causes reflect the diversity of the economic, social, and political problems that exist in various parts of the world, there are similarities in Salafi culture, political program, and course of action all over the globe. Salafism is a transnational movement, a utopian counter model to actually existing forms of society, offering its followers a “home” in a confusing world. It is characterized by a rigid gender order which, quite surprisingly, not only appeals to men but also to women; a strict system of rules which the individual is obliged to obey; and the simultaneous existence of authoritarianism and anarchic spaces of freedom. To young men, Salafism’s variant of Jihadism offers a playground of heroism that seems oddly anachronistic. While Salafists and Jihadists dissociate themselves from traditional Islamic organizations, they are nevertheless dependent on acceptance or at least tacit tolerance by conservative Muslims. They are viewed by many of the latter as the “youthful rebels” of the ummah; the attitude towards them is ambivalent but not without sympathy.

In a continuous dossier we provide interested readers with brief but poignant information on Islamic extremism as well as on its Salafist and Jihadist variants in various countries of the world. These contributions are available for download on our website. The essays address the international presence of the phenomenon, as well as regional and local differences and transnational networks. In addition, various theme-focused contributions on Jihadism (including gender relations, cash flows, issues related to the countries of immigration) will be accessible on our Internet platform. From February until July you can read and download a loose series of articles that specifically target interested readers active in politics, youth and integration work, and the security agencies. Our goal is to put the results of academic research at the disposal of practitioners. Please contact us if you need additional information. We will be happy to help you.