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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Islam and decolonization in Africa: the political engagement of a West African Muslim community
Author:Wright, Zachary ValentineISNI
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies (ISSN 0361-7882)
Geographic terms:West Africa
Muslim brotherhoods
About person:Ibrahim Niasse (1902-1975)ISNI
Abstract:African nationalism is often portrayed as a discourse driven by Western-educated elites. This article investigates the participation in African nationalism of the Senegalese Sufi Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse and his followers. The followers of Shaykh Ibrahim formed a large community of Muslims in Senegal and West Africa, who articulated an Islamic vision of African liberation and political engagement at the time of decolonization. The community was not isolated from the discourse of Western-educated elites, but drew its ideas from inherited Islamic traditions in West Africa. It fashioned itself as an important player in the story of African nationalism, which can be defined as a project of liberation and anti-colonial resistance, separately from the project of crafting the post-colonial State, from which the community was largely excluded. The article reconstructs the political orientation of Shaykh Ibrahim and his followers, mostly on the basis of the Shaykh's own public statements, his private letters and newspaper reports, but also drawing on fieldwork among people who were followers of the Shaykh at the time. The Shaykh had an Islamic vision of a neutral public sphere, interreligious cooperation, and just government based on representative democracy. He worked to inscribe and protect a Muslim identity in the public sphere of the independent African nation. The limits of his support of national unity were clearly drawn: Muslims must be allowed to preserve their institutions and knowledge practices needed for the transmission of Muslim identity. Shaykh Ibrahim's attempt to internationalize his following included some foray into pan-African rhetoric popular at the time of decolonization. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]