An African Vortex: Islamism in Sub-Saharan Africa


David McCormack is a Research Associate at the Center for Security Policy.

* The impetus for Saudi exportation of Wahhabism has been explored extensively elsewhere – for the purposes of this paper it is sufficient to note that Riyadh’s promotion of Wahhabism abroad was a tool for maintaining internal stability as well as a means of gaining ideological/strategic influence vis-à-vis other Middle Eastern states.   For an excellent introduction to Wahhabism see Hamid Algar’s Wahhabism: A Critical Essay (Oneonta,N.Y.: Islamic Publications International, 2002).


[1] For a history of Islam’s spread in Africa, see Nehemia Levtzion and Randall L. Pouwels, ed., The History of Islam in Africa (Athens,OH: Ohio University Press, 2000).

[2] Eva Evers Rosander, “Introduction: The Islamization of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity,’” in Eva Evers Rosander and David Westerlund, eds., African Islam and Islam in Africa: Encounters between Sufis and Islamists (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1997), 21.

[3] Testimony of Khalid Duran before the House Committee on International Relations, Subcommittee onAfrica,6 April 1995.

[4] Paul Marshall, “Radical Islam’s move on Africa,” Washington Post,16 October 2003.

[5] Lansiné Kaba, The Wahhabiyya: Islamic Reform and Politics in French West Africa (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974).

[6] “Dubai Crown Prince honours Al-Turki as Islamic Personality of the Year,” The Saudi Arabian Information Resource,, 26 November 2002; Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2003), 76.

[7] “Objectives,” The Muslim World League website,, viewed05 May 2004.

[8] S. Mazhar Hussain, ed., Proceedings of the First Islamic Conference of North America (New York: The Muslim World League Office to the United Nations and North America, 1977) 65-86.

[9] “Offices abroad,” The Muslim World League website,, viewed 05 May 2004; “Charitable institutions: International Islamic Relief Organization,” Ar-Riyadh City website,, viewed20 May 2004.

[10] Joeseph Kenny, “Arab aid and influence in tropical Africa,” in Christianity and Islam in Dialogue (Cape Coast: Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa, 1987), 77-83.

[11] “Building of mosques,” World Assembly of Muslim Youth website,, viewed19 May 2004.

[12] “Educational projects,” World Assembly of Muslim Youth website,, viewed19 May 2004.

[13] “Geographical distribution of SFD loans (projects and programs),” The Saudi Fund for Development website, available at, viewed26 April 2004.  US dollar figures have been converted from Saudi Riyals.

[14] Latheef Farook, “Saudi aid to developing countries totals $75.5b,” Saudi Arabian Information Resource,,23 May 2002.

[15] David B. Ottoway, “U.S. eyes money trails of Saudi-backed charities,” The Washington Post,19 August 2004, .

[16] “Support for mosques and Islamic centers in Africa,” King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz website,, viewed06 May 2004.

[17] “King Fahd charity complex in Kampala,” Saudi Arabian Information Resource,,8 October 2002.

[18] John Hunwick, “Sub-Saharan Africa and the wider world of Islam,” in Eva Evers Rosander and David Westerlund, 42-3.

[19] Alem-Zelalem, “Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism and the threat to Ethiopia’s national security,”,,26 September 2003.

[20] “Program to provide Ramadan meals,” Saudi Arabian Information Resource,,24 November 2002.

[21] “About us,” Channel Islam International,, viewed27 April 2004.

[22] Francois Constantin, “Leadership, Muslim identities and East African politics,” in Louis Brenner, ed., Muslim Identity and Social Change in Sub-SaharanAfrica (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 52.

[23]  “In a dire Kenyan camp, links to Al-Qaeda,” Danna Harman, The Christian Science Monitor,18 December 2002

[24] Paul Marshall, “Saudi-backed radical extremists batter Africa,” Newsday, p. A38,21 October 2003.

[25] John Paden, Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership in Nigeria (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986), 538-43.

[26] Hunwick, 39.

[27] Hunwick, 38-9.

[28] Loimeier, 295-7.

[29] Charlotte A. and Frederick Quinn, Pride, Faith, and Fear: Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press, 2003), 46.

[30] Hunwick, 39.

[31] John Paden, “Islam and democratic federalism in Nigeria,” Africa Notes, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2002 No. 8, 4.

[32] “While Nigerians ponder life under sharia law, critics remain,” Guardian News Service (Nigeria), p. 9,28 October 1999.

[33] These are Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa,Kaduna,Kano, Katsina,Kebbi,Niger, Sokoto and Yobe.

[34] “The Talibanization of Nigeria: Radical Islam, extremist sharia law, and religious freedom,” Freedom House, The Center for Religious Freedom, 21-2; Obed Minchakpu, “Zamfara state imposes Arabic language on Christians,” Project: Open Book Nigeria,,26 July 2002.

[35] The Talibanization ofNigeria, 5-6.

[36] Dave Clark, “Saudi cash adds bitterness to Nigeria’s heady recipe for strife,” Agence France Presse,7 March 2004.

[37] Testimony of Dr. J. Stephen Morrison before the House International Relations Committee, 15 November 2001; “Lebanon,” The Mandala Projects (AmericanUniversity),, viewed03 November 2003.

[38] Yossef Bodansky, “Osama bin Laden and the new crusader war,” Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, Vol. XXI, No. 26,20 February 2003.

[39] “‘Taliban’ of Nigeria: Who are they?” Weekly Trust (Nigeria),3 January 2004.

[40] “Kano police arrest mastermind of bloody revolt,” Vanguard (Nigeria),21 February 2004.

[41] Dave Clark, “Saudi cash adds bitterness toNigeria’s heady recipe for strife.”

[42] The CIA estimates 3.1 million as of 2003, see The World Factbook, available at  Others suggest roughly 5 million, see Quinn & Quinn, 113.

[43] Quinn & Quinn, 120.

[44] Quinn & Quinn, 121.

[45] Patrick Mayoyo, “Support from US is suspect, say Muslims,” The Nation (Nairobi),25 February 2004.

[46] Caroline Mango, “Muslims want Saudi aid ban lifted,” The East African Standard (Nairobi),15 March 2004.

[47] “Protestants reject Kadhis’ courts,” The Nation,22 April 2003.

[48] “Jihad threatened if Muslim demands are not met,” Project: Open Book, 30 April 2003, available at; Christine Afandi, “Supkem: Expect fire over Kadhi’s courts,” The East African Standard,15 March 2004.

[49] “Mombassa rocked by rioting after pro-Taliban demonstration,” The Nation,20 October 2001.

[50] “Wahhabi networks in Mombasa,” Intelligence Online, Political Intelligence; Security /Kenya,18 December 2002.

[51] “Daniel Nyassy, “Minister’s remarks on dress queried,” The East African Standard,11 March 2004.

[52] Declan Walsh, “Boys rescued from Kenya’s Islamic school of torture,” The Independent (London),30 January 2003.

[53] Patrick Mayoyo, “Kenya Muslims say not to US school funds,” The East African Standard,23 February 2004.

[54] “Kenya: Muslims form alliance with main opposition party,” Global News Wire – Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, 30 June 2003; “Opposition MPs accuse state of ‘harassing’ Islamic organizations,” Global News Wire – Asia Africa Intelligence Wire,14 July 2004.