Findings & Footnotes January 2017

  • The U.S. Institute of Peace has issued a new report entitled The Jihadi Threat that suggests a proliferation of jihadi groups beyond their current shapes and numbers as well as the revival of al-Qaida. The 48-page report finds that both the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaida have had far-reaching influence on disenfranchised Sunni groups in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and Caucasus. While some invoke the global jihadi rhetoric of the IS and al-Qaida, other groups are more nationalist or nation-first jihadis, such as Jabhat Fateh and Ahrar al-Sham of Iraq and Syria. Many of these country-first groups have fluid relationships with global jihadi groups and may shift their allegiances for strategic and financial reasons. The report’s contrast of al-Qaida and the IS is particularly noteworthy, finding that the former has been able to revive by gaining support among local jihadi and Salafist groups, unlike the IS, which has been losing territory, even though it is not likely to be the last such group to try such a recipe for achieving a global caliphate. To download the report, visit

  • The new book The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman (Oxford University Press, $35), by Anabel Inge, deftly explores the phenomenon of women converting to strict Islamic groups in Great Britain. The author’s in-depth treatment of how modern women adapt rigorous Islamic practices that are essentially apolitical moves the reader off the well-trod path of Islamic women, head covering, and extremism. Through formal interviews with 36 Salafi women, Inge finds a unique pattern of what she calls “delayed  conversion,” wherein these women embrace Islam after a long period of uncertainty, experimentation, and experience of generally poor relations with adherents—which goes against the theory that affective bonds draw people to unconventional religions. Salafism provides these women with rules and the sense of certainty, especially in the area of dating and marriage. Although stressing returning to the pure source of the Quran, these women followed the guidance of teachers in small groups called circles of knowledge that fostered a spirit of sisterhood. Yet Inge finds that these women—mainly of black Caribbean and Somali backgrounds—found sharp intergroup tensions within their circles and only after joining learn that Salafi teaching does not value their occupational and educational ambitions, leading some to fall away. Reports of sexual abuse by some male leaders have also surfaced. Inge concludes that Salafism may be unstable, especially as the second generation are just coming of age and may not maintain the intensity of their parents, but there are enough new converts to sustain the movement.