Salafi movement

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Salafis, which has destroyed and perverted a part of the Muslim world, is a threat for Muslims ~ Manuel Valls

The Salafi movement or Salafist movement or Salafism is an ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam that emerged in the second half of the 19th-century and advocated a return to the traditions of the "devout ancestors" (the salaf). The doctrine can be summed up as taking "a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulating the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers—al-salaf al-salih, the 'pious forefathers'." "They reject religious innovation, or bid'ah, and support the implementation of sharia (Islamic law)." The movement is often divided into three categories: the largest group are the purists (or quietists), who avoid politics; the second largest group are the activists, who get involved in politics; the smallest group are the jihadists, who form a small minority.


  • It time to declare Salafism outlawed. As sectarian drift, or as affecting the fundamental interests of the Nation, choose the safest way.
  • Abdelaziz was the descendant of Muhammad ibn (son of) Saud, founder of the Al-Saud dynasty. From the deep interior of Najd, Abdelaziz brought with him two centuries of a particular brand of Islam that his ancestors had espoused in a political and familial alliance with one man: Muhammad ibn Abdelwahhab. Ultra-orthodox and fundamentalist, the eighteenth-century religious preacher led an exclusionary revivalist movement, following in the footsteps of others who had called for a return to the ways of the salaf, the ancestors, the first generation of Muslims. There were those Salafists who believed that following the righteous salaf, al-salaf al-saleh, dictated a return to the exact way of life of the prophet. In the early twentieth century, there would be modernist Salafists, such as the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh, who believed it was important to rid Islam of centuries of acquired traditions and accretions and return to the purity of prophet’s teachings, which actually provided the answers needed to adapt religion to modernity. Only after 9/11 did the term Salafist become known worldwide, used exclusively to denote the stricter outlook with Salafist jihadists resorting to violence to impose their views.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave : Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • We will not put up with Salafist associations and their backers flouting our rules and bringing our rule of law into question and convincing young people that they want to join the so-called IS.

F. Gregory Gause III, The Saudis can't rein in Islamic State. They lost control of global Salafism long ago. (2016)

F. Gregory Gause III, The Saudis can't rein in Islamic State. They lost control of global Salafism long ago. Los Angeles Times (July 19, 2016)
  • Can a state be both the target of Islamist extremists and responsible for their actions? The attacks on July 4 in three Saudi Arabian cities, almost certainly perpetrated by adherents of Islamic State, have once again raised this question for drive-by analysts. They point out that the official interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia, which outsiders refer to as Wahhabism and Saudis refer to as Salafism, shares many elements with extremist ideology. Then they argue that Saudi efforts to proselytize Salafism played a role in the development of the global jihadist movement, and that the Saudis thus bear a special responsibility to rein in their support for Muslim institutions outside their borders and to moderate their practice of Islam at home. The implication is that if the Saudis would only change their behavior, the threat represented by the radicals would be greatly reduced.
  • Saudi Wahhabism is profoundly quietist politically. It calls on Muslims to obey their rulers, as long as those rulers implement Islam, however imperfectly, in their society. (That is not particularly surprising for a state religion.) The success of the jihad in Afghanistan, however, lent a revolutionary political content to global Salafism for some of its adherents, like Osama bin Laden, which soon became a direct threat to the Saudi regime and all other Muslim governments around the world.
  • What had been a largely apolitical phenomenon of Muslims emulating Saudi Wahhabism in their personal lives became, for part of the global Salafi movement, an element of their political identity.
  • Salafism morphed into a religious movement with a number of political manifestations, only one of which was the blend of social conservatism and political quietism represented by the official Saudi variant.
  • Global Salafism is now unmoored from its Saudi origins.
  • The Saudis can also contribute to the ideological fight against Salafi jihadism, but not in the way most Western liberals think. The admonition for “tolerance” has much to recommend it as Saudi leaders think long term, but the more immediate task is to convince those attracted to Salafism that the violent path is, as the Saudi clerics say, “deviant.” Liberal “reforms” in Saudi Arabia are not going to convince pious Salafis that their interpretation of Islam is incorrect. Rather, the Saudis have to redouble their efforts to use the domestic and international institutions of Islam that they created and funded to convince believers that Salafi Islam itself prohibits the acts of violence perpetrated in its name.
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