Western Cote d’Ivoire: the call for Sharia’ Print
Written by Lassina DIARRA, specialist in Islamism in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa   
Saturday, 25 August 2018 13:06

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Terrorism, primarily a religious extremism, has become a major geopolitical challenge for the West African states. Feeding on a fast spreading brand of Islam, especially among the underprivileged, a culture of intolerance and merciless dissuasion is ending up in transforming the community life into a more or less looming, a more or less imminent battleground.


 In that configuration, where the whole African continent is strongly marked by the resurgence of Islamist terror, Côte d'Ivoire may seem confronted principally by an external threat. In reality, fanaticism posturing is gaining momentum in the country and takfiri homilies have become routine throughout religious teaching and sermons.


The Salafist groups’ doctrinal drift gives reason to fear both an entrenchment and an extension of an endogenous call for holy violence. Following its recent failure in the Middle East, the international jihadist organization, would then have a successor in West Africa compensating its current breakdown in the Middle East. Obviously Côte d'Ivoire is not yet at that level of likelihood; however the dynamics linked to a number of noticeable initial signs, including the inability to detect this very evolution, should help to validate concerns.


In San Pedro, over one year, the increase in the number of women dressed in niqab, could be observed in the streets of precarious neighborhoods (such as the Bardo area).That is also true as well of the city segmentation in different sectors around the groups of dar-al-islam and dar-al kufr. These developments help to get an understanding of the continued leaning of parts of the population, towards an uneasiness regarding the space and the relationship with the ‘’Other’’.  A leaning that is increasingly expressed around perceptions of confessional hostility. Because of its economic weight, the presence of western expatriates and the potential of tourist sites (beaches, classified forests), becoming priority targets of terrorists’ attacks, the city situation requires specific attention.


Beyond the immediate risk of attack and effective measures of anticipation, the case of San Pedro does not differ from the overall awareness throughout the entire territory. An Islam brand, enormously conflict prone and unfavorable to freedoms is developing in Côte d'Ivoire and in the sub-region, without meeting for the time being, any appropriate response, neither from the State, nor among the religious representatives inviting it to adhere to the principles of secularism, moderation and social cohesion.


Monitoring exchanges on the social networks is sufficient enough to help measure the degree of radicalization of a large segment of Cote d’Ivoire Muslims’ youth that is less and less acquiescent to a secular State.


The groups’ passionate exchanges on a number of online discussions make it possible to follow the types of argumentation deployed to engage and relay the hatred of the West, of Democracy and of any other religion aside Islam. On the understanding of terrorism, most conceive it as a result of a conspiracy by the enemies of Islam and that perception goes beyond the cleavage between generations. Others are reluctant to rehabilitate the words Jihad and Jihadism; terms that they believe are misused by the Crusaders’ media and imperialists.


 This development, unmeasurable for the time being, remains underestimated, not to say taboo. However, a low cost solution to address radical groups is still possible. To that end, preventive policies should be based on continuously updated data bases that would help to build adapted strategies for early interventions.


In conclusion, to its promoters, commitment to radical identity results from the mission of obedience to God. Therefore, it constitutes the node of a deadly divergence that is not necessarily linked to the transgression of a law. The use of Islam for political aims, the control of political space or the acquisition of wealth, put blame on many Muslims everywhere.


To limit the impact of a truthful statement that damages or hurts, it is up to the State, especially its police and intelligence services, to work to unite Cote d’Ivoire various Sunni obedience inclinations over a visible and frank defense of secularism, democracy, cultural diversity and peace.


However, for the time being and considering the financial interests at stakes, and therefore the battle for leadership and precedence between the leading figures of Ivorian Islam, that objective seems out of reach.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 26 August 2018 14:29 )