Following the events of Sept. 11, observers are paying closer attention to the rapid growth of Islam in Africa.
Somalia has been considered a possible target of the “war against terrorism”, although more recent evaluations seem to take a softer line and to recommend surveillance only. Various reports indicate the vitality of Islam in various parts of the African continent.
In Somalia, the Muslim militants of Al-Ittihad are no longer involved in armed struggle, reports the Washington Post (Feb. 24). They are now active in social work as well as in schools.
According to the Chicago Tribune (Feb. 24), they are not the only ones: no less than 300 Quranic schools have appeared during the past decade, while no school has been opened by the weak transitional government or foreign aid agencies. The establishment of schools is seen as a positive contribution to that poor country, but questions arise about the future of children, given the kind of training they get there and the poor prospects for their future.
In Mali, a country rarely making it into the news, a correspondent from the Christian Science Monitor (Feb. 26) notices that the tide of Islam is on the rise. One indicator is the multiplication of Islamic associations: while there were only a few ten years ago, there are now more than 150. Moreover, Islam has become a channel for criticism against the alleged deficiencies of the government, as one can hearÂ every Friday in mosques around the country. Increasingly, there are people who feel that the imitation of the West has led them nowhere and think that religion can fill the void.
Another correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor (Jan. 10) earlier reported about the growth of Islam among Blacks in South Africa. It still remains a small force in black townships, but converts are no longer unheard of, and their number is clearly growing, especially among young men.
According to Muslim sources, there could be 10,000 Muslims today in Soweto alone. Muslim immigrants from other African countries help in the conversion work. But there are also tensions with the Asian Muslims of South Africa.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer