Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stopping Salafists with Harlem Shake

Salafists fail to stop Harlem Shake in Tunisia

TUNIS (AFP) - Salafist Muslims in socially divided Tunisia tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the Harlem Shake at a school on Wednesday, but were driven off after coming to blows with students.

At another school, south of the capital, the principal banned a performance there, and angry students reacted by hurling stones at police, who responded with tear gas.

When a dozen or so ultra-conservative Muslim youths, some of them women in veils, showed up at the Bourguiba Language Institute in the El Khadra neighbourhood of Tunis, a Salafist bastion, students shouted "Get out, get out!"

One of the Salafists shouted "Our brothers in Palestine are being killed by Israelis, and you are dancing," adding that he wanted to explain the difference in Islam between behaviour that is "haram" (prohibited) and "halal" (permitted).


Tunisians restrain an Islamist student who was part of the group that attacked students of the Bourguiba Language Institute in the El Khadra neighbourhood, a Salafist bastion, of the capital Tunis, as they tried to prevent the filming of current Internet craze the "Harlem Shake" on February 27, 2013. Salafist Muslims caused a fight when they tried to prevent the filming of the global online buzz, but the Islamists eventually withdrew and the students were able to film their production. -- PHOTO: AFP


Violent tide of Salafism threatens the Arab spring

A series of repressive dictatorships have been brought down in north Africa, but the ensuing struggles for power have left a vacuum that has allowed the rise of an extremist movement that is gathering both force and supporters

Late last year, largely unnoticed in the west, Tunisia's president, Moncef Marzouki, gave an interview to Chatham House's The World Today. Commenting on a recent attack by Salafists – ultra-conservative Sunnis – on the US embassy in Tunis, he remarked in an unguarded moment: "We didn't realise how dangerous and violent these Salafists could be … They are a tiny minority within a tiny minority. They don't represent society or the state. They cannot be a real danger to society or government, but they can be very harmful to the image of the government."

It appears that Marzouki was wrong. Following the assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid last Wednesday – which plunged the country into its biggest crisis since the 2011 Jasmine Revolution – the destabilising threat of violent Islamist extremists has emerged as a pressing and dangerous issue.

Violent Salafists are one of two groups under suspicion for Belaid's murder. The other is the shadowy, so-called neighbourhood protection group known as the Leagues of the Protection of the Revolution, a small contingent that claims to be against remnants of the old regime, but which is accused of using thugs to stir clashes at opposition rallies and trade union gatherings.

The left accuses these groups of affiliation with the ruling moderate Islamist party, Ennahda, and say it has failed to root out the violence. The party denies any link or control to the groups. But it is the rise of Salafist-associated political violence that is causing the most concern in the region. Banned in Tunisia under the 23-year regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, which ruthlessly cracked down on all forms of Islamism, Salafists in Tunisia have become increasingly vocal since the 2011 revolution.

The Salafist component in Tunisia remains a small minority, but it has prompted rows and mistrust among secularists and moderate Islamists. The Salafists are spread between three broad groups: new small political movements that have formed in recent months; non-violent Salafis; and violent Salafists and jihadists who, though small in number, have had a major impact in terms of violent attacks, arson on historic shrines or mausoleums considered to be unorthodox, demonstrations against art events – such as the violence at last summer's Tunis Arts Spring show, which was seen to be profane – and isolated incidents of attacking premises that sell alcohol outside Tunis.

It is not only in Tunisia. In EgyptLibya and Syria, concern is mounting about the emergence of violent fringe groups whose influence has already been felt out of all proportion to their size.

In Egypt last week, it was revealed that hardline cleric Mahmoud Shaaban had appeared on a religious television channel calling for the deaths of main opposition figures Mohammed ElBaradei – a Nobel peace prize laureate – and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy.

In Libya in recent months, Salafists and other groups have been implicated in a spate of attacks, including the assault on the US consulate in Benghazi in which two Tunisians were suspected.

Among the countries which succeeded in removing their authoritarian leaders in the Arab spring, Tunisia has faced the greatest challenges in its transition from Salafi-inspired jihadism. These groups – once ruthlessly suppressed by Ben Ali – have re-emerged with a vengeance over the past two years.

In May last year, armed Salafists attacked a police station and bars selling alcohol in the El Kef region. A month later, a trade union office was firebombed. In September, a Salafist mob stormed the US embassy in Tunis and an American school.

If it is difficult to describe what is happening, it is because of terminology.

Although many of those involved in violence and encouraging violence could accurately be called Salafis, they remain an absolute minority of a wider minority movement that has emerged as a small but potent political force across post-revolutionary North Africa.
Although the encouragement to violence from this minority has been most marked in Tunisia, it has not been absent in Egypt.

"We've already started to see real threats," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre last week. "There are many instances in Egypt where Salafis have used the language of incitement against opponents."

Last year, one Egyptian Salafi cleric, Wagdi Ghoneim, called for a jihad on protesters against President Mohamed Morsi, a demand he repeated this month. Another – Yasser el-Burhamy – reportedly banned Muslim taxi-drivers from taking Christian priests to church.

Yasser el-Shimy, Egypt analyst for the Crisis Group said: "All it takes is for one guy to take it upon himself to carry out a fatwa. But the prospects of that happening in Egypt are less – or certainly not more – than they are in Tunisia. In Egypt, there was a deeper integration of Salafis into the political process as soon as the revolution had taken place."
Most tellingly, two leading Egyptian Salafis last week condemned the death threats against ElBaradei and Sabbahi.

A spokesman for al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya – which only last week called for the crucifixion of masked Egyptian protesters known as the Black Bloc – "rejected" assassinations as a political tool, while the leader of the Nour party, Egypt's largest Salafi group, went further, criticising "all forms of violence".

Nader Bakkar, a spokesman for the Nour party, said: "The Salafis in Tunisia are not organised well and they don't have the scholars who can teach them how to deal peacefully with things that they don't like in their country. It gives you a clear vision that we will not see in Egypt what we saw happen in Tunisia."

Bakkar also argued that Shaaban, the cleric who issued the fatwa against ElBaradei and Sabbahi, had little currency in Egyptian Salafism.

"He doesn't have many followers," said Bakkar, who claimed that Shabaan came from a school of Salafism that had preached obedience to former dictator Hosni Mubarak, and whose reputation had therefore been ruined in the post-revolution period.

The main Salafist political parties, which are represented in parliament, have far more of a stake in democratic transition than in Tunisia and Libya.

In Libya, Islamist violence, in some cases inspired by Salafism, has followed its own trajectory. After more than a year of violence that came as much from the competition between rival groups who fought former dictator Muammar Gaddafi for power and influence, recent incidents have had a more jidahi flavour even as Salafist groups have attacked Sufi shrines and demanded that women be covered.

If there are differences between the strands of Salafist extremism in North African countries, there are some striking similarities. Like Egypt – as Anne Wolf pointed out in January in a prescient essay on the emerging Salafist problem in Tunisia for West Point's Combating Terrorism Centre, "certain territories … have traditionally been more rebellious and religiously conservative than others. Tunisia's south and interior, in particular, have found it difficult to deal with the modernisation policies launched by the colonial and post-independence governments, whose leaders came from more privileged areas."

And while violence – and the threat of violence – by the "minority of the minority" of Salafis has the potential to disrupt the post-revolutionary governments of the Arab spring, for the new Islamist governments it also poses considerable political problems, which are perhaps as serious.

In Tunisia, the government estimates that 100 to 500 of the 5,000 mosques are controlled by radical clerics. Although the majority of Salafists are committed to non-violence, the movement has been coloured by the acts of those following a jihadi stream.

That has created problems for Ennahda, which secular opponents suspect of secretly planning with Salafis the "re-Islamisation" of Tunisia, not least because of the government's unwillingness or inability to move against the most extreme Salafi groups.
Indeed, when an al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb cell was broken up in Tunisia last year, all its members were also found to be active in another Salafist grouping – Ansar al-Sharia, founded by Abou Iyadh. He was jailed for 43 years under ex-dictator Ben Ali's regime after being extradited from Turkey, but was freed under an amnesty for political prisoners following the 2011 revolution that ousted the president.

The jihadist strand has recently been vocal in its condemnation of the intervention by France in its former colony of Mali, which has increased anti-French feeling. Algerian officials said 11 of the 32 Islamist gunmen who overran the In Amenas gas field last month were Tunisian. Tunisian jihadists are said to have left for Syria.

For Ennahda – as a number of analysts pointed out last year – confronting extremist Salafist violence has become a challenging balancing act. Fearful of radicalising the wider movement by cracking down too hard – as the former Ben Ali regime did – it has sought instead to have a dialogue with those renouncing violence by condemning the "rogue elements". This is a policy that has led to accusations that it has been too soft or has secretly tolerated violence against secular opponents such as the murdered Belaid.
As Erik Churchill and Aaron Zelin argued in an article for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace last April, "this position opens the door for secular groups to criticise … the ruling party's actions [as] evidence of a double discourse – conservative in private and moderate in public".

In particular, Tunisia's secular leftist parties were critical of the setting up of a religious affairs ministry under Noureddine al-Khademi, an iman affiliated to the Al-Fateh mosque in Tunis, known for its Salafist presence and protests.

Khademi's office vowed that several hundred mosques in Tunisia which had been taken over by Salafist preachers after the revolution would be brought back under moderate control. Last year, his office said that around 120 remained controlled by extremist preachers, of which 50 were a serious problem.

Even MPs in Ennahda have recently woken up to the problem. Zied Ladhari, an MP for Sousse in the Assembly said the Salafist issue was a concrete part of the heritage of the Ben Ali era and "must be handled in a concrete manner".

He said violent Salafism and jihadism "presents a danger for the stability of the country", while non-violent Salafism – "a way of life and literal reading of Islam" often "imported and foreign to our society"– was something that Ennahda distinguished itself from.
"The violent element must be fought very firmly by police and the law," said Ladhari. "Then there should be dialogue with the peaceful element, in the hope of evolution through dialogue. It's more of a sociological issue than a political one."

He said social-economic issues and fighting poverty and social exclusion were crucial. He said: "We have to deal with it seriously and with courage, a drift must not take hold."
Selma Mabrouk, a doctor and MP who recently quit the centre-left Ettakatol party in protest over the coalition's stance on the constitution and power-sharing, said: "The problem is the violent strain of Salafism, not the strain of thought, because we now have freedom of expression, everyone can have their views."

She warned against an "ambiguous" stance by Islamist party Nahda and the centre-left CPR in the coalition towards street violence, hate speech and attacks which she said were going unchecked. She was also highly critical of the fact that two Salafists arrested for the US embassy attack died in prison after a long hunger strike without a proper trial procedure coming into effect.

She said: "There is this ambivalent attitude from the government, a permissivity on street violence on one side and, on the other hand, indifference to prisoners and the hunger strike."

Additional reporting by Angelique Chrisafis

• This article was amended on 10 February 2013. In the original a paragraph by the writers was wrongly marked as a quote from Shadi Hamid. This has been corrected.
What is salafism?

■ An ultraconservative religious reform movement within Sunni Islam, which has received backing from Saudi Arabia, Salafism calls for a return to the moral practices of the first Muslims.
■ It has incorrectly become synonymous with jihadi ideology, however. Salafists – while extremely puritanical – reject suicide bombing and violence.
■ A minority movement in Islam, it is growing and has become increasingly politically important, not least in Egypt where Salafist parties came second in last year's parliamentary elections to Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Salafi (Arabic: سلفي‎) is a Muslim who emphasises the Salaf ("predecessors" or "ancestors"), the earliest Muslims, as model examples of Islamic practice.[1] The term has been in use since the Middle Ages but today refers especially to a follower of a modernSunni Islamic movement known as Salafiyyah or Salafism, which is related to or includes Wahhabism (a name which some of its proponents consider derogatory, preferring the term Salafism), so that the two terms are often viewed as synonymous.[2] At other times, Salafism is deemed as the hybridation between Wahhabism and other movements which has taken place since the 1960s.[3] Salafism has become associated with literaliststrict and puritanical approaches to Islam and, in the West, with the Salafi Jihadis who espouse violent jihad against civilians as a legitimate expression of Islam.[4] It has been noted that the Western association of Salafi ideology with violence stems from writings done "through the prism of security studies" that were published in the late 20th century, having persisted well into contemporary literature.[5] More recent attempts have been made by academics and scholars who challenge these major assumptions. Academics and historians use the term to denote "a school of thought which surfaced in the second half of the 19th century as a reaction to the spread of European ideas," and "sought to expose the roots of modernity within Muslim civilization."[6]

Just who or what groups and movements qualify as Salafi remains in dispute. In the Arab world, and possibly even more so now by Muslims in the West, it is usually secondary to the more common term Ahl-as-Sunnah (i.e., "People of the Sunnah") while the term Ahl al-Hadith (The People of the Tradition) is more often used in the Indian subcontinent to identify adherents of Salafi ideology, a term that is used in the Middle-East more often to indicate scholars and students of Hadith. All are considered to bear the same or similar connotation and have been used interchangeably by Muslim scholars throughout the ages,Ahl al-Hadeeth possibly being the oldest recorded term for these earliest adherents[7] whileAhl as-Sunnah is overwhelmingly used by Muslim scholars, including Salafis as well as others, such as the Ash'ari sect, leading to a narrower use of the term "Salafi".[8] TheMuslim Brotherhood includes the term in the "About Us" section of its website[9] while others exclude that organisation[10] in the belief that the group commits religious innovations. Other self-described contemporary salafis may define themselves as Muslims who follow "literal, traditional ... injunctions of the sacred texts" rather than the "somewhat freewheeling interpretation" of earlier salafis. These look to Ibn Taymiyyah, not the 19th century figures of Muhammad AbduhJamal al-Din al-Afghani, and Rashid Rida.[6]

According to the 2010 German domestic intelligence service annual report, Salafism is the fastest growing Islamic movement in the world.[11]

The first generations of Muslims are collectively referred to as the "Pious Predecessors" (as-Salaf as-Saleh),[12] and include the "Companions" (Sahabah), the "Followers" (Tabi‘un) and the "Followers of the Followers" (Tabi‘ al-Tabi‘in). These are revered in Sunni Islamic orthodoxy and their example has been used to understand the texts and tenets of Islam by Sunni theologians since the fifth Muslim generation or earlier, sometimes to differentiate the creed of the first Muslims from subsequent variations in creed and methodology (see Madhab),[13][14] to oppose religious innovation (bid‘ah) and, conversely, to defend particular views and practices.[15][16]

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies, states that among Sunnis is "a strongly held view that temporal proximity to the Prophet Muhammad is associated with the truest form of Islam." [17] This veneration is based on a number of records of the sayings ofMuhammad who said, "I am the best Salaf for you"[18] and, as narrated in the Sahih al-Bukhari of `Abd Allah ibn `Umar, a companion of Muhammad; "The best people are those of my generation, and then those who will come after them and then those who will come after them..."|Sahih al-Bukhari collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari.[19] Other narrations indicate that there will follow people who will bear false witness of Islam.[20]


Salafis view the Salaf as an eternal model for all succeeding Muslim generations in their beliefs, exegesis, method of worship, mannerisms, moralitypiety and conduct: the Islam they practiced is seen pure, unadulterated and, therefore, the ultimate authority for the interpretation of the Sunnah.[21] This is not interpreted as an imitation of cultural norms or trends that are not part of the legislated worship of Islam but rather as an adherence to Islamic theology.[22] Salafis reject speculative philosophy (kalam) that involves discourse and debate in the development of the Islamic creed. They consider this process a foreign import from Greek philosophy alien to the original practice of Islam. The ImamAl-Dhahabi (d. 748H / 1348) said:

It is authentically related from ad-Daaraqutnee that he said: There is nothing more despised by me than kalam. I say: He never entered into kalam nor argumentation. Rather, he was a Salafi.[23]

Salafism holds that the Qur'an, the Hadith and the consensus (ijma) of approved scholarship (ulama) along with the understanding of theSalaf us-salih as being sufficient guidance for the Muslim. As the Salafi da'wa is a methodology and not a madh'hab in fiqh as commonly misunderstood, Salafis can come from the MalikiShafi'iHanbali or the Hanafi schools of Sunni jurisprudence[24] and accept teaching of all four if supported by clear and authenticated evidence from the Sunnah. They support qualified scholars to engage in ijtihad in the face of a clear evidence be it from Qur'an of Hadeeth as opposed to total blind imitation (taqlid) if he is qualified. Their views in theology are based on the Athari creed as opposed to engaging in kalam, dialectics or any form of speculative philosophy.

Salafism condemns many common practices as polytheism (shirk) and tawassul of religious figures, such as venerating the graves of Islamic prophets and saints or using amulets to seek protection. They maintain that practices which are understood to be bid‘ah or heretical innovations are not permissible and should not be taught or practiced. Salafis believe that Islam's decline after the early generations results from religious innovations and from an abandoning of pure Islamic teachings; that an Islamic revival will only result through emulation of early generations of Muslims and purging of foreign influences.

Salafis place great emphasis on following acts in accordance with the known sunnah, not only in prayer but in every activity in daily life. Many are careful to always use three fingers when eating, drink water in three pauses with the right hand while sitting[25] and make sure their jellabiya or other garment worn by them does not extend below the ankle so as to follow the example of Muhammad and his companions.

Opposition to the use of Kalam

Salafi scholars are in staunch opposition to the use of kalam, dialectics or speculative philosophy in theology. This is because it is seen as a heretical innovation in Islam which opposes the primordial aspiration to follow the original methodology of the Salaf us-salih with regards to Aqidah. Statements of the early Imams of the early Muslims are in corroboration with this such as Imam Abu Hanifa who prohibited his students from engaging in kalam, stating that those who practice it are of the "retarded ones."[26] Imam Malik ibn Anas referred to kalam in the Islamic religion as being "detested",[27] and that whoever "seeks the religion through kalam will deviate".[28] In addition Imam Shafi'i said that no knowledge of Islam can be gained from books of kalam, as kalam "is not from knowledge"[29][30] and that "It is better for a man to spend his whole life doing whatever Allah has prohibited – besides shirk with Allah – rather than spending his whole life involved in kalam."[31] Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal also spoke strongly against kalam, stating his view that no one looks into kalam unless there is "corruption in his heart,"[32] and even went so far as to prohibit sitting with people practicing kalam even if they were defending the Sunnah,[33] and instructing his students to warn against any person they saw practicing kalam.[34]


From the perspective of Salafis the history of the Salafi dawah starts with Muhammad himself. They consider themselves direct followers of his teachings as outlined in the Qur'an and Sunnah (prophetic traditions), and wish to emulate the piety of the first three generations of Islam (the Salaf). All later scholars are merely revivers (not 'founders') of the original practices. Modern scholars may only come to teach (or remind) Muslims of the instructions of the original followers of Islam, who based their beliefs and actions on the Qur'an and Sunnah.

Landmarks claimed in the history of Salafi da'wah are Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.240 AH / 855 AD) who is known among Salafis as Imam Ahl al-Sunnah, and one of the three scholars commonly titled with the honorific Sheikh ul-Islam, namely, Taqi ad-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 AH / 1328 AD) and Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751 AH / 1350).[35][36][37]

Early examples of usage

Some scholars, such as Ibn Taymiyyah, have noted: "There is no criticism for the one who proclaims the madh'hab of the Salaf, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is obligatory to accept that from him by unanimous agreement because the way of the Salaf is nothing but the truth."[23]

The term salafi has been used to refer to the theological positions of particular scholars. Abo al-Hasan Ali ibn Umar al-Daraqutuni (d. 995 C.E., 385 A.H.) was described by al-Dhahabi as: "Never having entered into rhetoric or polemics, instead he was salafi."[38]

Also, al-Dhahabi described Ibn al-Salah, a prominent 12th century hadith specialist, as: "Firm in his religiosity, salafi in his generality and correct in his denomination. [He] refrained from falling into common pitfalls, believed in Allah and in what Allah has informed us of from His names and description."[39]

In another of his works, Tadhkirat al-huffaz, al-Dhahabi said of Ibn al-Salah: "I say: He was salafi, of sound creed, abstaining from the interpretations of the scholars of rhetoric, believing in what has been textually established, without recourse to unjustified interpretation or elaboration.[40]

In his book, Tabsir al-Muntabih, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani mentioned the ascription al-Salafi and named Abd al-Rahman ibn Abdillah ibn Ahmad Al-Sarkhasi al-Salafi as an example of its usage. Ibn Hajar then said: "And, likewise, the one ascribing to the salaf."[41]

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani also used the term, salafi in describing Muhammad ibn al-Qaasim ibn Sufyan al-Misri al-Maliki (d. 966 C.E., 355 A.H.) He said that al-Malaiki was: "Salafi al-madh'hab – salafi in his school of thought."[42]

In the book Al-Ansaab by Abu Sa'd Abd al-Kareem as-Sama'ni, who died in the year 1166 (562 of the Islamic calendar), under the entry for the ascription al-Salafi he mentions an example or more of people who were so described in his time.[43] In commenting upon as-Sama'ni, Ibn al-Athir noted; "And a group were known by this epithet."[44]

Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab

Many today consider Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab as the first figure in the modern era to push for a return to the religious practices of the salaf as-salih.[45] His evangelizing in 18th century Arabian Peninsula was a call to return to the practices of the early Muslims. His works, especially Kitab at-Tawhid, are still widely read by Salafis around the world today, and the majority of Salafi scholars still reference his works frequently.[46] After his death, his views flourished under his descendants, the Al ash-Sheikh, and the generous financing of the House of Saud and initiated the current worldwide Salafi movement.[citation needed]

The vast majority of Salafis reject the Wahhabi label because they consider it unfounded, an object of controversy,[47] holding that Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab did not establish a new school of thought but restored the Islam practiced by the earliest generations of Muslims.[citation needed] Followers of Salafiyyah consider it wrong to be called "Wahhabis" as the 17th Name of God is al-Wahhab ("the Bestower") and to be called a "Wahhabi" denotes the following of a person other than what in actuality is the believed following of the Qur'an and Sunnah.[48] Wahhabism has been called a "belittling" and derogatory term for Salafi,[49] while another source defines it as "a particular orientation within Salafism,"[24] an orientation some consider strongly apolitical,[50][51] and yet another describes it as a formerly separate current of Islamic thought that appropriated "language and symbolism of Salafism" until the two became "practically indistinguishable" in the 1970s.[52]

Trevor Stanley states that, while the origins of the terms Wahhabism and Salafism "were quite distinct" – "Wahhabism was a pared-down Islam that rejected modern influences, while Salafism sought to reconcile Islam with modernism" – they both shared a rejection of "traditional" teachings on Islam in favor of a direct, more puritan interpretation. Stéphane Lacroix, a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer atSciences Po in Paris, also affirmed a distinction between the two: "As opposed to Wahhabism, Salafism refers here to all the hybridations that have taken place since the 1960s between the teachings of Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and other Islamic schools of thought. Al-Albani’s discourse can therefore be a form of Salafism, while being critical of Wahhabism."[53]

The migration of Muslim Brotherhood members from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Saudi King Faisal's "embrace of Salafi pan-Islamismresulted in cross-pollination between Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab's teachings on tawhid, shirk and bid‘ah and Salafi interpretations of the sayings of Muhammad.[54]

Contemporary Salafism

Salafism is attractive to its adherents because it underscores Islam's universality.[55] It insists on affirmation of the literal truth as understood by its apparent meaning of Qur'anic scripture and Hadeeth,[55] yet may challenge secularism by appropriating secularism's traditional role of defending the socially and politically weak against the powerful.[56]

Connections to extremism

In recent years the Salafi methodology has mistakenly come to be associated with the jihad of extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and related groups that advocate the killing of innocent civilians. These acts have consistently been strongly opposed by Salafi scholars such as Sheikh Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani, Sheikh Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen and Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd Allah ibn Baazwho had all issued fatawa (religious verdicts) forbidding suicide bombing declaring the act as being totally haram (forbidden).

Sheikh Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani who said; "We say that suicide operations now, in the present times, all of them are without legislation and all of them are forbidden. It could be that the person who commits it could fall into the category of those who remain in the Hellfire forever, or it could be that he does not remain in the Hellfire forever..."[57]

Sheikh Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen who said; " for what some people do regarding activities of suicide, tying explosives to themselves and then approaching Unbelievers and detonating them amongst them, then this is a case of suicide, and Allaah¹s refuge is sought. So whoever commits suicide then he will be consigned eternally to Hell-Fire, remaining there forever, as occurs in the hadeeth of the Prophet, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam. (i.e., his, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam, saying, " and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, then the iron weapon will remain in his hand, and he will continuously stab himself in his belly with it in the Fire of Hell eternally, forever and ever." Reported by al-Bukhaaree, no. 5778 and Muslim, no. 109, in the Book of Eemaan). Because this person has killed himself and has not benefited Islam. So if he kills himself along with ten, or a hundred, or two hundred other people, then Islam will not benefit by that, since the people will not accept Islam... ... Rather it will probably just make the enemy more determined, and this action will provoke malice and bitterness in his heart to such an extent that he may seek to wreak havoc upon the Muslims. This is what is found from the practice of the Jews with the people of Palestine, so when one of the Palestinian blows himself up and kills six or seven people, then in retaliation they take sixty or more. So this does not produce any benefit for the Muslims, and does not benefit those amongst whose ranks explosives are detonated. So what we hold is that those people who perform these suicide (bombings) have wrongfully committed suicide, and that this necessitates entry into Hell-Fire, and Allah¹s refuge is sought and that this person is not a martyr (shaheed). However if a person has done this based upon misinterpretation, thinking that it is permissible, then we hope that he will be saved from sin, but as for martyrdom being written for him, then no, since he has not taken the path of martyrdom. But whoever performs ijtihaad and errs will receive a single reward (if he is a person qualified to make ijtihaad)."[58]

Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Abd Allah ibn Baaz who said with regards to suicide bombings;
" ...such an act is never correct because it is a form of killing oneself and Allāh subhanahu wa ta'ala says: < And do not kill yourselves. [Sūrah al-Nisā 4:29] > And the prophet salAllahu 'aleihi wa selim said: < Whoever kills himself by any means, he will be punished by it on the Day of Resurrection.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 670] > The person should rather strive and seek to guide them and if fighting is legalized and legislated, then he fights alongside the Muslims. If he’s then killed in this way, then Allāh is praised. But as for killing himself by booby-trapping his body with explosives, thereby killing others and himself, this is wrong and completely impermissible. Rather, he should fight with the Muslims only when fighting is legitimately legislated. As for the [suicidal] actions of (some of) the Palestinians, they are wrong and produce no benefit. Instead, it is compulsory upon them to call to Allāh by teaching, guiding, and advising and not by such actions as these."[59]

The groups and individuals that carry out terrorist attacks are regarded as being out of the fold of the methodology of the Salaf, misguided and deviant; chiefly erroneous "Qutubi jihadism" groups.

Trends within Salafism

Salafist jihadism was a term coined by Gilles Kepel[60][61] to describe those self claiming Salafi groups who began developing an interest in jihad during the mid-1990s. Practitioners are often referred to as Salafi jihadis or Salafi jihadists. Journalist Bruce Liveseyestimates Salafi jihadists constitute less than 1 percent of the world's 1.9 billion Muslims (c. 10 million).[60] However those who take their actions beyond the limits of the shari'ah (such as terrorist attacks against civilians) are seen as deviant and not being true "Salafis".

Madkhalism is a term typically referring to the strain of Salafists viewed as supportive of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.[62][63][64] Originally taking its name from controversial Saudi Arabian cleric Rabee Al-Madkhali, the movement lost its support in Saudi Arabia proper when several members of the country's clerical body known as the Permanent Committee denounced Madkhali personally.[65] Influence of both the movement and its figureheads have waned so much within the Muslim world that analysts have declared it to be a largely European phenomenon.[65]

Salafist activism has sometimes been described as a third strain of the global movement, being different from the Salafist Jihadists by eschewing violence and from the Salafist Madkhalists by engaging in modern political proceses.[66] Due to numerical superiority, the movement has been referred to the mainstream of the Salafist movement at times.[64]

Qutbism is a movement which has, at times, been described both as a strain of Salafism and an opposing movement,[49] providing the foil to Madkhalism in that the movement is typically found in radical opposition to the ruling regimes of the Middle East.[62] Qutbism has, at times, been associated with the above mentioned Salafist Jihadist trend.[66]

Despite some similarities, the different contemporary self-proclaimed Salafist groups often strongly disapprove of one another and deny the other's Islamic character.[67]

Comparison with other movements

Main article: Islamism

Some Salafi Muslims often preach disengagement from Western activities, and advocate being apolitical and being against any form of extremism, "even by giving them an Islamic slant."[68] Instead, it is thought that Muslims should stick to traditional activities, particularly Dawah. Nevertheless, Salafis do not preach willful ignorance of civil or state law. While preaching that the Sharia takes precedence, Salafi Muslims conform to civil or state law as far as they are required, for example in purchasing mandatory auto insurance.


Salafism has been recently criticized by Professor Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA School of Law. El Fadl argues that the Salafi methodology "drifted into stifling apologetics" by the mid-20th century, a reaction against "anxiety" to "render Islam compatible with modernity," by its leaders earlier in the century.[69] He attacks those who state "any meritorious or worthwhile modern institutions were first invented and realized by Muslims". He argues the result was that "an artificial sense of confidence and an intellectual lethargy" developed, according to Abou El Fadl, "that took neither the Islamic tradition nor" the challenges of the modern world "very seriously."[70][71]

Treatment of salafism in China

Salafism is intensely opposed by a number of Hui Muslims in China, by the Gedimu and Sufi Khafiya and Jahriyya. So much so that even the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Chinese sect, which is fundamentalist and was founded by Ma Wanfu who was originally inspired by the Salafis, condemned Ma Debao and Ma Zhengqing as heretics when they attempted to introduce Salafism as the main form of Islam. Ma Debao established a Salafi school, called the Sailaifengye (Salafi) menhuan in Lanzhou and Linxia, and it is a completely separate group from other Muslim sects in China.[72] Muslim Hui avoid Salafis, even if they are family members, and they constantly disagree.[73]The number of Salafis in China are not included on percentage lists of Muslim sects in China.[74] The Kuomintang Sufi Muslim General Ma Bufang, who backed the Yihewani (Ikhwan) Muslims, persecuted the Salafis, forcing them into hiding. They were not allowed to move or worship openly. The Yihewani had become secular and Chinese nationalists, and they considered the Salafiyya to be "heterodox" (xie jiao), and people who followed foreigners' teachings (waidao). Only after the Communists took over were the Salafis allowed to come out and worship openly again.[75]

German government's statement on Salafism

German government officials[76] have stated that Salafism has a strong link to terrorism but have clarified that not all Salafists are terrorists. The statements by German government officials criticizing Salafism were televised on Deutsche Welle broadcasts for the week of April 18, 2012.[77][78]

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