“Just Admit it Man, You’re a Spy!”

Fieldwork Explorations into the Notion of Salafi “Oppositionality”

Authors

  • Richard Gauvain The British University in Egypt

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.37640

Keywords:

Salafism, ethnography, oppositionality, Egypt, da‘wa, al-wala’ wa’l-bara’, maslaha

Abstract

This article addresses two related problems in the current ethnographic study of Salafism. First, it draws attention to the lack of positionality exhibited by many commentators on Salafism; second, and more crucially, it highlights the reluctance of scholars to engage with what is here labelled Salafi "oppositionality". By oppositionality, I refer to a set of attitudes (non-compliance, defiance, hatred) which are formally prescribed to, and informally generated by, Salafis in their dealings with non-Muslims and very often with lapsed and/or errant Muslims. Through two case studies in pre-Arab Spring Cairo, I explore the workings of Salafi oppositionality in practice. By so doing, I highlight the often fragile and ephemeral nature of relationships that can be formed between a Western-trained ethnographer and his/her Salafi respondents, and demonstrate the ways in which instances of opposition are mutually constituted. Both the researcher and the Salafi, I argue, present each other with a dilemma. In my experience, Salafis have no problem identifying the essence of this dilemma; it is time for Western ethnographers to exhibit a similar degree of transparency.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Richard Gauvain, The British University in Egypt

Richard Gauvain is Associate Professor of Political Science at the British University in Egypt. He is the author of Salafi Ritual Purity: In the Presence of God (2013) and, since 2002, has divided his time living and working between Egypt and the UAE.

References

Ahmed, Chanfi 2015 West African ‘Ulama’ and Salafism in Mecca and Medina: Jawab al-Ifriqi, the Response of the African. Leiden: Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004291942

Bangstad, Sindre 2009 Contesting Secularism(s): Secularism and Islam in the Work of Talal Assad. Anthropological Theory 14(1): 110–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463499609105477

Baylocq, Cedric, and Akila Drici Bechikh 2012 The Salafi and the Others: An Ethnography of Intracommunal Relations in French Islam. In Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices, edited by B. Dupret and T. Pierret, 105–114. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Bonnefoy, Laurent 2011 Salafism in Yemen: Transnationalism and Religious Identity. London: Hurst & Co.

Burns, Emily 2015 Thanks, but No Thanks: Ethnographic Fieldwork and the Experience of Rejection from a New Religious Movement. Fieldwork in Religion 10(2): 190–208. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.v10i2.27236

Duderija, Adis 2014 Neo-traditional Salafis in the West: Agents of (Self)-Exclusion. In Muslims in the West and Social Exclusion, edited by S. Yasmeen and N. Markovi?, 125–41. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Falcone, Jessica Marie 2010 “I spy…” The (Im)possibilities of Ethical Participant Observation with Antagonists, Religious Extremists, and Other Tough Nuts. Michigan Discussions in Anthropology 18: 243–82.

Farquhar, Michael 2017 Circuits of Faith: Migration, Education, and the Wahhabi Mission. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. https://doi.org/10.11126/stanford/9780804798358.001.0001

Gauvain, Richard 2013 Salafi Ritual Purity. New York: Routledge.

----- 2015 Egyptian Sufism under the Hammer: A Preliminary Investigation into the Anti-Sufi Polemics of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Wakil (1913–70). In Sufis and Salafis in the Contemporary Age, edited by Lloyd Ridgeon, 33–57. London: Bloomsbury Academic Press.

----- 2019 Nothing has Changed/Everything has Changed: Salafi Da‘wa in Egypt from Rashid Rida to “The Arab Spring”. In Culture of Da‘wa: Preaching Islam in the Modern World (forthcoming), edited by Itzchak Weismann and Jamal A. Badawi. Utah: Utah University Press.

Gerges, Fawaz 2005 The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global. New York: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511512049

Gilliat-Ray, Sophie 2005 Closed Worlds: (Not) Accessing Deobandi Dar Ul-Uloom in Britain. Fieldwork in Religion 1(1): 7–33.

Hage, Ghassan 2010 Hating Israel in the Field: On Ethnography and Political Emotions. In Emotions in the Field, edited by James Davies and Dimitrina Spencer, 129–54. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hassan, Muhammad 2006 Khawatir ‘ala tariq al-da‘wa. Mansura: Maktabat al-Fiyad li’l-Tijara wa’l-Tawzi‘.

Haykel, Bernard 2009 On the Nature of Salafi Thought and Action. In Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, edited by Roel Meijer, 33–57. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Hegghammer, Thomas 2010 Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism since 1979. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.21236/ADA515098

Inge, Anabel 2016 The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman: Paths to Conversion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190611675.001.0001

Kaag, Mayke 2008 Transnational Islamic NGOs in Chad: Islamic Solidarity in the Age of Neoliberalism. Africa Today 54: 3–18. https://doi.org/10.2979/AFT.2008.54.3.2

Koning, Martijn de, Edien Bartels and Danielle Koning 2011 Claiming the Researcher’s Identity: Anthropological Research and Politicized Religion. Fieldwork in Religion 6(2): 168–86.

----- 2014 How Should I Live as a True Muslim? Regimes of Living among Dutch Muslims in the Salafi Movement. Etnofoor, The Netherlands Now 25(2): 53–72.

Lacroix, Stephane 2011 Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia. London: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674061071

Maguire, Thomas E. R. 2009 A Light in Every Home: Huda TV’s Articulation of Orthodox Sunni Islam in the Global Mediascape. PhD diss. Austin, TX: University of Texas.

----- 2011 New Media and Islamism in the Arab Winter: A Case Study of Huda TV in Pre-revolutionary Egypt. Journal of Arab and Muslim Media Research 4(2-3): 237–52.

Mahmood, Saba 2005 The Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Marcus, George E., and Dick Cushman 1982 Ethnographies as Texts. Annual Review of Anthropology 11 (1982): 25–69. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.an.11.100182.000325

Mårtensson, Ulrika 2014 Harakî Salafism in Norway: “The Saved Sect” Hugs the Infidels. Tidsskrift for islamforskning 8(1): 190–222.

Meijer, Roel (ed.) 2009a Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement. London: C. Hurst & Co.

----- 2009b Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong. In Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, edited by R. Meijer, 189–200. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Olsson, Suzanne 2016 Contemporary Purity Salafism: A Swedish Case Study. New York: Equinox.

Østebø, Terje 2012 Localising Salafism: Religious Change among Oromo Muslims in Bale, Ethiopia. Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill.

Pall, Zoltan 2013 Lebanese Salafis between the Gulf and Europe: Development, Fractionalization and Transnational Networks of Salafism in Lebanon. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

----- 2018 Salafism in Lebanon: Local and Transnational Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parvez, Z. Fareen 2016 Prayer and Pedagogy: Redefining Education among Salafist Muslim Women in France. Journal of Religious and Political Practice 2(1): 23–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/20566093.2016.1085245

Poljarevic, Emin 2016 The Power of Elective Affinities in Contemporary Salafism. The Muslim World 106(3): 474–500. https://doi.org/10.1111/muwo.12159

Rabil, Robert 2014 From Apoliticism to Transnational Jihadism. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Said, Behnam T., and Hazim Fouad (eds) 2014 Salafismus, Auf der Suche Nach dem Wahre. Freiburg: Herder.

Salomon, Noah 2017 For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan’s Islamic State. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400884292

Salzman, Philip Carl 2002 On Reflexivity. American Anthropologist 104(3): 805–13.

Selim, Hebatullah Nazy Sayed 2016 Religionizing Politics, Salafis and Social Chance in Egypt. PhD diss. Birmingham: University of Birmingham.

Shavit, Uriya 2014 Can Muslims Befriend Non-Muslims? Debating al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ (Loyalty and Disavowal) in Theory and Practice. Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 25(1): 67–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/09596410.2013.851329

Thurston, Andrew 2016 Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching and Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316661987

Vidino, Lorenzo 2013 Hisba in Europe? Assessing a Murky Phenomenon. European Foundation for Democracy. Online: http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Hisba_in_Europe1.pdf (accessed October 20, 2018).

Wagemakers, Joas 2009 The Transformation of a Radical Concept: Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’ in the Ideology of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. In Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement, edited by Roel Meijer, 81–106. London: C. Hurst & Co.

----- 2012 The Enduring Legacy of the Second Saudi State, Quietist and Radical Wahhabi Contestations of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’. International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 44: 93–110. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020743811001267

----- 2016a Salafism in Jordan: Political Islam in a Quietist Community. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316681534

----- 2016b Salafism. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.255

Wiktorowicz, Quintan 2000 The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan. New York: State University of New York Press. https://doi.org/10.1080/10576100500497004

----- 2006 Anatomy of the Salafi Movement. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29(3): 207–39.

Worth, Robert F. 2009 Credentials Challenged: Radical Quotes West Point. New York Times, 29 April.

Wright, Robin 2012 Don’t Fear all Islamists, Fear the Salafis. New York Times, 19 August.

Zayd, Abu Bakr 2004 Hajr al-mubtadi‘. Cairo: Maktabat al-Sana.

Published

2018-12-20

How to Cite

Gauvain, R. (2018). “Just Admit it Man, You’re a Spy!” : Fieldwork Explorations into the Notion of Salafi “Oppositionality”. Fieldwork in Religion, 13(2), 203–230. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.37640

Issue

Section

Articles