Understanding Salafism in the Somali polity
For nearly 20 years, international newswires on Somalia have been reminding us that the Movement of the Young Combatants (Xarakada Mujaahidiinta Alshabaab, aka HMS or al-Shabaab) is a Salafi-Jihadi organisation. This recurrent portrayal of al-Shabaab may have erased basic questions such as what does this label mean, and does it hold true? But also, if it is true that al- Shabaab is Salafi, then what are we to make of all the other Salafis in Somalia? The truth of the matter is that answering these questions is more complicated than thought if the purpose is to go beyond drawing a simplistic line between ‘bad Salafis’ and the rest of the Somali society. The following analysis is an attempt to provide some answers to these questions by undertaking a sketchy overview of this religious trend within Somali society over the last 50 years. My argument here is that Salafism has gained roots in Somalia’s religious arena and can exercise influence in the economy as well as in the educational sector. There is also a vexing question: how long can Salafism, which has been so influential in the corridors of the new state apparatus, avoid getting a proper political representation? Despite the existence of Jihadi groups that claim to enforce its dogmas, Salafism is not inherently violent, though in Somalia violence has been a haunting question for its supporters throughout its existence...