Religion and Violence (Conceptualising the Use of Violence in Salafi-Oriented Movement Organisations)

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This chapter presents the conceptual and theoretical framework of the study. It prefaces the discussion with a synopsis of significant literature on the use of violence in SOMOs, especially as discussed in Religious Studies and Sociology of Religion. Through this, it identifies significant gaps in the literature, and provides the rationale behind the research questions of the study. Furthermore, the chapter will also present a detailed discussion of social movement theories, (particularly resource mobilisation, political opportunity process and framing process models), arguing that the theoretical paradigms of these models, are better suited for analysing and addressing the gaps in the literature and the concomitant research questions formulated for the study.

 Religion and Violence (Conceptualising the Use of Violence in Salafi-Oriented Movement Organisations)

Discussions about the use of violence in SOMOs has for years engaged scholarly attention from a variety of disciplines (Caschetta, 2015; Elster, 2006; Franks, 2006; Juergensmeyer, 2003). In the wake of increasing evolution and use of violence in such groups, scholars have focused on unravelling how groups with ideological foundation in a religious tradition containing binding proscription such as “thou shalt not kill”15 are associated with life-ending strategies? How could a religion such as Islam with a name cognate to ‘salam’ (the Arabic word for ‘peace’) be associated with brutal activism? Mark Juergensmeyer (2008:30) has, for example, asked: Is there a connection between Salafism (or religion in general) and violence? Amaechi (2016), Caschetta (2015), Elster (2006), Franks (2006) have also asked: What are the motivates of the evolution of such groups in
a given socio-political environment? (Gunning, 2007; M, 2014; Wiktorowicz, 2004). Given that these kinds of groups have continued to evolve and have continued to use these strategies in recent times, answers to these kinds of questions remain important. Answers to such questions not only help provide insight into the ideological foundation upon which such groups use and adopt violent strategies, they can also help identify the socio-political contexts under which such groups evolve.
The reviewed literature is mostly about the use of violence in SOMOs. In reviewing the literature, the discussions are categorised into two loosely interpreted positions: those that see violence as primarily connected to Salafism (or religion in general), and those that see it as having little or no connection to Salafism. The chapter mostly focused on literature within the religious studies and the sociology of religion, the point of which is to situate the study to these particular fields of social sciences.

 Salafism as the Driver of Violence

Salafism has been discussed in many studies as the main element, which drives the evolution of violence in SOMOs (Caschetta, 2015; Hafez, 2000; Jansen, 1986; Onuoha, 2015). Scholars have analysed different Salafism doctrines, as the ideological platform upon which such groups adopt violence, as a strategy for goal attainment. Often, the Islamic tradition’s immutable sources of knowledge — the Qur’an and the Hadith (that is, the canonical collections of Muhammad’s sayings and actions) are conceived as the main elements, which inform decisions about the evolution of violence. Given that these sacred scriptures contain historical traditions and ideological elements, which are fused with violent activism, they provide ideological and moral imperative for justifying the evolution and development of violent activism in such groups. In this case, SOMOs who resort to violence do so on the basis of the theological justification Salafism provides. Under certain conditions or circumstances that meet specific religiously sanctioned criteria, such groups easily evolve and readily rely on these sources to develop and justify violent strategies against state opposition, or other groups regarded as legitimate targets.
This kind of understanding was first promoted in religious studies and sociology of religion by scholars within the so called “fundamentalism literature”. In analysing the origin of the religious-motivated violent groups (referred to as ‘fundamentalists’), scholars on fundamentalism argued that, such groups are often driven from “an intolerant self-righteous and narrowly dogmatic religious literalism” (Umar, 1983: 23). For such studies, the evolution of such groups is not just a social imperative, but a feature which always flows from “religious radicalism”, when the society departs from the desired ideal, or divine-intended religious situation (Appleby 2000; Bruce 2008; Martin et al., 1996). Disgusted by undesirable societal situations, religious groups, therefore, evolve and draw violent strategies from ideologies within their religious traditions, to correct the ills of the society. In other words, the evolution of violent activism in such groups is a natural response that emanates from the groups’ religious ideological sources.
Samuel Huntington’s (1993; 1997) “clash of civilisations” exacerbated this idea. Leaning on the literature concerned with the notion of fundamentalism, the American scholar believes that religious identities would be the main driver of international conflict in the new world order following the end of the Cold war between the US and Russia. According to him, although Nation States would remain the most powerful actors in the international arena, the ‘clash of civilisations’ would be the new force fuelling international conflicts. Huntington (1993) first categorised the world into nine different civilisations, mostly based on religious lines and cultural constructs. He contends that, conflicts occur either on a religious ideological level within States with groups belonging to different civilizations, or on global level between and among States that belong to different religious civilizations (“core-state conflicts”). Although these civilisations bring with them different, and sometimes contradictory violent ideologies, religions create the possibilities for violent clashes among the different countries that are identified with them. While I acknowledge with many other scholars (Asad, 2007; Silvestri and Mayall, 2015) this argument cannot account for how religions become intertwined with other factors, and as such it is difficult to separate it from other political, economic and social factors (which might give better explanations for conflict dynamics inside and between neighbouring countries). Thus, Huntington (2003) gives credence to the idea that religious ideologies (civilisations) drives violence. Following his reasoning, it is possible to infer therefore that international conflicts and violence could evolve not necessarily because of historical or socio-economic factors, but also because of the religious ideologies, which form part of these civilisations.
On the same note, Bruce (2008: 42) regards religion as the main driver of violence for “fundamentalist groups”. In “Islamist fundamentalist’s movements”, he noted two main features within religion: lack of a clear division between the spiritual and religious power, and the centrality of the law. As he rightly observed, Islam, unlike Christianity and most of the other monotheistic religious traditions, achieved its political power in the lifetime of its founder, Prophet Mohammed.
Partly for this, the British sociologist of religion argues that the original Muslim community did not develop an image of faith that is isolated from secular powers. It also did not develop an idea of faith, which is separated from politics. For that, the religion is very much susceptible to be used for mobilisation of violent activism. Under an undesirable context, for example, it is easier for a religious leader in ‘Islamic fundamentalist group’ to draw on these historical narratives and religious ideologies within the religion, to mobilise violent activism against the perceived enemies of the religion. Violence within such situation is not something that is rooted in environmental factors, but rather something that can be drawn from the religious sources and traditions within the Islamic religion.
It is from this background that many recent scholars (Hafez, 2000; Moghadam, 2009; Onuoha, 2015) have connected the use of arm struggle to the violent ideologies within Salafism. In the analysis of the use of suicide violence in al-Qaeda for example, Assaf Moghadam (2008/2009) particularly identifies religious exclusivist ideologies within Salafism as the main justifications for the group’s use of this form of violence. Tracing the evolution of al-Qaeda itself, this scholar describes how this form of violence had been justified and made popular by the group leadership’s framing of ‘jihad’ as key element in the battle between true Muslims and the West. Within the boundaries of such framing, he argues al-Qaeda’s leadership is able to elevate violent attack, (specifically suicide violence) against the West and its allies as within the realm of the “five pillars of Islam”16. They were also able to appropriate the idea of takfir (the process of labelling fellow Muslims as infidels), within which they are able to support and justify the use of violence as representing “the ultimate form of devotion to God and the optimal way to wage jihad” (Moghadam, 2009:62). Inferably, al-Qaeda activists who commit suicide violence against identified targets, operate with a conviction that “he/she does not kill him/herself for personal reasons, but sacrifices him/herself for God. He/she is therefore not committing suicide, but achieving martyrdom” (Moghadam, 2009:62). Although this is theologically unsound and quite debatable, since the idea of suicide is a disapproved practiced among most Salafi Islamic scholars; however, it helps make the case that religious ideologies within Salafism play a very important 16 “Five Pillars of Islam” represent the main framework of correct spiritual life in Islamic traditional religion. The framework includes: Testimony of faith, prayer, giving zakat (charity to the needy), abstinence and fasting during the month of Ramadan, and making pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime for those who are able to do. A reference will be useful. role in the use of violence within SOMO. By helping reduce the suicide attacker’s reservations to perpetrate the acts of violence and killing of him/herself, helps him or her justify violent actions against identified targets.
Arguably, this kind of analysis was set in motion by Wiktorowicz’s (2006) categorisation of Salafis, in his Anatomy of the Salafi Movement. Wiktorowicz divided groups within Salafism into three categories:
the quietist-those who focus on ‘nonviolent methods of propagation, purification, and education’. These kinds of actors discourage their followers from political activism, sticking to the classical, Sunni principle which entails total obedience to the Muslim ruler; the jihadi-those who call for ‘violence and revolution’ to overthrow the governments of their countries; and finally, the politicos-those who emphasise application of the Salafi creed in the political arena and allow the formation of Islamist parties. These people are mostly not interested in arm struggle.
In Wiktorowicz’s categorisation, Salafism is far from monolithic. While Salafis in general agree on most points of religious belief and socio-political end goals (creating an Islamic political community governed by their interpretation of Shari’a), he argues, the difference between them lies in the means to achieve these goals. For him, the “Quietists” and “Politicos” within Salafism eschew the use of violence whatsoever (they rather focus on bottom-up “education and purification” of society, or non-violent political activism that tend to reject democratic means of engagement respectively). It is mostly the “Jihadis”, who believe in the revolutionary overthrow of existing state structures through armed struggle. For this set of Salafis, such systems need to be replaced by theocracies that implement a strict interpretation of the Shari’a. Their jihadi interpretation of the two concepts of al-ḥukm bi-ghayr mā anzala Allāh (judgements, other than what God has revealed) and al-walā’ wa’l-barā’ (loyalty to Islam and disavowal of everything else) is also more rigid or extreme than that of the ones advocated by the quietists and the politicos.
SOMOs who use violence fall within the trend of Salafi-jihadists. Following their interpretations and convictions on the use of this strategy for goal attainment, they would not hesitate to adopt arm struggle or violence against their host communities, in order to achieve their goals. This means, the use of violence is bound to evolve in such groups; it is only a matter of “when”. Thus, the evolution of violence in such organisations is a religio-political response emanating from the ideological imperative that exists within their Salafi ideological tradition.
This kind of analysis dominated recent scholarly discussions about the use of violence in BH (Anonymous, 2012; Brigaglia, 2012a; 2012b; 2015; Kassim, 2015; 2018; Thurston, 2016). Writing in the Journal of Religion in Africa, an Anonymous (2012) scholar logically identified BH’s Salafist ideology and the resultant violent activism in the group to the second trend (the jihadist) in the global Salafi discourse, which favours the use of violence. In analysing how the Northern Nigerian-born SOMO adopted violence against the Nigerian state, the Anonymous (2012:139) author contrasts Yusuf’s position (what he called “Salafi Radicalism”) with that of the other established Salafi networks (“counter Salafi Radicalism”), in the Northern Nigeria. These positions championed violent and non-violent approach respectively (Anonymous, 2012:139).
Both positions are dependent on key Salafi doctrines, and hence agree on the desirability of a struggle to establish an ‘Islamic’ form of government in Nigeria. However, the former’s answer to the question of how Muslims should establish the desired government, the author argued, led him to break away from the main Salafi establishments in the region (Ahlus Sunna and Izala17), and later to his group’s declaration of jihad and “violent confrontation with the Nigerian government” (Anonymous, 2012: 139). Thus, while Yusuf and his group adopted a violent approach for the establishment of a theocratic al-Shari’a state, other established Salafi networks in the region followed the non-radical path. They tactically accepted the necessity of working within the Nigerian non-Islamic government to achieve incremental improvement with the already existing state (albeit an imperfect one), pending the establishment of an Islamic one18. Instead of using the Salafi narrative to urge Muslims to remove their oppressors forcefully, as Yusuf championed, they invoked the narrative to warn Muslims against confrontation with Nigerian government because they didn’t think they could win.
Thurston (2016) would modify this argument a bit. In identifying the significance of the global radical Salafi discourse in the development of armed struggle in Yusuf’s group; he recognised the debates between Boko Haram and the established Salafi networks in the region as identical to the local manifestation of a tension existing between global quietist and Salafi-jihadi trends within Salafism. For him, BH is the purest representation of the Salafi-jihadi trend in Nigeria. Being able to internalise Salafi-jihadi ideas, Thurston (2016) infers that these thoughts were the main intellectual influence upon which Yusuf and BH activists developed an “exclusivist worldview”, within which the group’s leadership were able to mobilise their followers for armed struggle against the Nigerian state. The militant call in the group, as he saw it, was based on a more rigid application of the principle of takfīr (excommunication) of the Muslim ruler who rules and issues judgements, other than what God has revealed (al-ḥukm bi-ghayr mā anzala Allāh). Also, the associated principle of al-walā’ wa’l-barā’ (loyalty to Islam and disavowal of everything else), which implies that a deficiency shown in one’s loyalty to the laws of Islam, or in the disavowal of non-Islamic systems constitutes an act of unbelief (kufr) in itself. It also puts the one (in this case, the Muslim ruler) who commits it, out of the fold of Islam (Brigaglia, 2015). This disposition made it possible for Yusuf, and later Shekau, to demand their audience to “choose between Islam and a set of allegedly anti-Islamic practices: democracy, constitutionalism, alliances with non-Muslims, and Western-style education”, and possibly resort to violence, as their message was not accorded positive reception by the Nigerian government. This doctrinal theology, albeit being the fundamental ingredient for armed violence, Thurston (2016:5) will further add was also possible to motivate violence in BH because it is combined with the group’s “politics of victimhood”, fiercely propagated by the group’s leadership at the time.

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1.1 Background of the Study
1.2 A Brief Profile of Boko Haram
1.3 Statement of the Problem
1.4 Research Objectives
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 The Significance of the Study
1.7 Clarification of Key Terms
1.8 Chapter Outline of the Thesis
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Religion and Violence (Conceptualising the Use of Violence in Salafi-Oriented Movement Organisations)
2.3 Social Movement Theories: An Overview
2.4 Theorising the Use and Development of Violence in Salafi-oriented Movement Organisations: A Synthesized Social Movement Theory Approach
2.5 Summary
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research Approach (Philosophy of the Research)
3.3 The Study’s Population
3.4 The Study Samples
3.5 Methods of Data Collection
3.6 Preparing for the Data Collection
3.7 Arriving in Nigeria for the Interviews (Data Collection)
3.8 My Role (and My Assistant’s) During the Interviews
3.9 Trustworthiness and Authenticity of the Data
3.10 Ethical Considerations
3.11 Data Analysis
3.12 Summary
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The Northern Nigerian Culture of Islamic Activism
4.3 The Northern Nigerian Colonial Legacy
4.4 Northern People’s Congress: The Formation of the Most Popular Islamic-Based Political Party in Northern Nigeria
4.5 The Return to Democracy in 1999: The Resurgence of al-Shari’a Advocacy in Northern Nigeria
4.6 The Two Main Salafi Networks in Northern Nigeria: Intra-Ideological Dispute and the Formation of Boko Haram
4.7 The al-Qaeda Influence: Connecting Material Resources to the Establishment of Kanama Camp
4.8 Summary
5.1 Introduction
5.2 From Kanama to Maiduguri: The Reign of Yusuf as the Leader of Boko Haram
5.3 The Beginning of Armed Struggle against the Nigerian State
5.4 Mobilisatory Resources
5.5 Summary
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Profiling the Re-Emergence of Boko Haram (2010-2016)
6.3 Connecting the Interactions and Mutual Co-operation with AQIM and Al-Shabaab to the Development and Sustenance of the Specific Forms of Violence in Boko Haram
6.4 Internal Dynamics: Connecting the Use of kidnappings and Armed Robbery to the Internal Competition from the Split and Unification of Jama`at Ansar al-Muslimin fi Bilad al-Sudan by BH
6.5 Shekau Isolated From AQIM, al-Shabaab and ISIS (2016-)
6.6 Summary
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Research Findings and Implications to Previous Research
7.5 Limitations of the Research
7.6 Final Thoughts

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