Quietist Salafism shows resilience in post-Arab Spring world

Rejecting revolutionary protests as well as jihadism, quietist Salafism has proved until now remarkably resilient and has been able to preserve its position in post-Arab Spring environments, writes Laurent Bonnefoy (Sciences Po, Paris) in the Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions (January–March). The perception that the turmoil starting in 2011 has led to a worse situation than the earlier one may have even made its stand attractive. Initially, the support of quietist Salafis for authoritarian regimes in the atmosphere of protest of the Arab Spring had seemed bound to erode their credibility. Reluctantly breaking with political nonpartisanship, Salafis in several countries entered the political field, sometimes with initial success, as shown by the Al-Nur party in Egypt, although it later lost its impetus. At the same time, sections of Salafism became politicized, and those that didn’t were made to feel even more welcome by regimes concerned about protests and opponents.

Quietist Salafi preachers have continued to warn that entering into party politics involves allegiance to democracy and sows discord (fitna). Sticking to an apolitical stance, they have capitalized on the failure of democratic transitions and uprisings. They have also denounced jihadism both on doctrinal grounds and based on their assessment that such violence will only bring more harm than benefits to Muslims. The chaos created by the Arab Spring events has made quietist Salafi preachers look farsighted in retrospect. Obviously, Bonnefoy notes, their apolitical stance has fulfilled a political role—against the 2011 and 2012 revolutionary uprisings, against the Muslim Brotherhood when it was in power in Egypt in 2013 and 2014, and against the Islamic State organization in 2015 and 2016. There has been no radical reorientation among quietist Salafis. However, Bonnefoy concludes by wondering how long and how far grassroot Salafis will support Salafi leaders as political and religious environments change, potentially opening a variety of options.

(Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions, 10 rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006 Paris, France – https://journals.openedition.org/assr/)