21 March 2015
The use of the term Salafi and Salafism in the contemporary period is ambiguous and in many ways confusing. The pivotal question of who or what group qualifies as Salafi remains in dispute. What is Salafism and who are the Muslims referred to as Salafis?
In recent years, particularly after the incident of 9/11, the term Salafism has attracted much attention. Salafism has been blamed for being the ideology that underpins terrorist violence. Since then, some Western writers and the media have failed to provide a balanced analysis or even accurate description of Salafism; propagating only a negative and skewed perspective of the term.
In actual fact, Salafism is highly misunderstood due to its amorphous nature. It represents a spectrum of thinking that includes violence on one end and a peaceful recourse on the other. As such, efforts to provide a universally-accepted meaning of the term “Salafism”, have been an uphill struggle for scholars. The pivotal question of who or what group qualifies as Salafi remains in dispute. It needs to be emphasised that the term Salafism originated within the Islamic traditions. Salafism in its original form is but one of the many manifestations of Islam. However it is important to note that because the term Salafism has gone through mutations over time, it is critical that we understand the meaning of Salafi and Salafism literally, historically and contextually.
…Mohamed Bin Ali is an Assistant Professor with the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is also a counsellor with the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG).
GPO / SRP / Online
Last updated on 23/11/2015