Religious outbidding struggels and power of interpretation conflicts in the global field of Salafism


Information about the Project

Project Manager: Youssef Dennaoui
Applicant: Patrick Becker

Duration: 10.2020-09.2024 (4 years)

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research funding line „Gesellschaftliche Ursachen und Wirkungen des radikalen Islam in Deutschland und Europa“


A comparative study of salafist beliefs between Germany and Morocco

Religious radicalization processes create a particular challenge for modern societies. They occur in all religions/regions and are to be understood as modern phenomena. Whether it is Africa, North and Latin America, India or the Islamic world, everywhere we observe tendencies towards strict or even radical religious readings and forms of organization, that occur on the same ground as intensive modernizations of entire areas of society.

For Islam, Salafism in its numerous expressions (puritanical, politicized, jihadist, etc.) represents a modern attempt to reinterpret Islamic sources and discourse traditions in a strict or even radical way. The result is the emergence of Salafist groups/organizations worldwide, which shape their religiosity according to strict religious rules and regulations and create closed communities among themselves. Ongoing religious interpretive power conflicts with the traditional institutions of orthodox Sunni Islam over the 'authentic' Islamic sentiment not only lead to the fragmentation of already established Salafist groups, but also to their radicalization. The religious sociological assumption here is that the practice of overbidding – which finds its primary expression in the exaggerated competition of religious-theological interpretations and carries out comprehensive reinterpretations/revaluations of religious beliefs, practices, lifestyles and institutions of Islam – is a key factor. The result is a 'Salafization of Islam' that can be observed worldwide and, according to the thesis, is to be seen as a consequence of religious outbidding processes. This trend is already being addressed among Muslim theologians, but there is a lack of well-founded and critical analysis of its individual, social and religious consequences. It also finds little attention in comparative social science research on Salafism.

The BMBF project consists of two phases:

In the first three-year research period, selected examples/stages of Salafist developments from the past thirty years will be comparatively examined in two different contexts (Morocco and Germany). Focusing four thematic fields, they will be systematically reconstructed with the help of discourse-analytical procedures: a) theological discourses and debates; b) religious biographies and authorities; c) religious organizations and networks; d) global events and conflicts. These four fields of inquiry are intended to provide thematic orientations in the discourse-analytic research process, moreover, they are intended to do justice to the significance of religious beliefs in Salafist outbidding discourses and, above all, they are to help determine conflict situations within which religious outbidding conflicts escalate among the various Salafist groups. The following questions will be addressed: 1) How does the process of production, reproduction, circulation and appropriation of religious outbidding discourses take place in Salafism? 2) Can religious-discursive outbidding conflicts within Salafist circles lead to radicalization and, if so, under what conditions?

In the second, field-oriented period, the research results will be used to evaluate existing measures against radical Salafism in Germany and to generate new ones. Here, the comparison with Morocco is significant, since the country is in a situation that can be paralleled in its dealing with radical Salafism. In cooperation with the city of Aachen, the NRW network CoRE, religious communities and centers of Islamic theology in Germany, existing approaches are to be evaluated and new ones are to be developed. The guiding principle is to establish local cultures of prevention against religious radicalization that take transreligious and translocal causes into account.

Further information on the topic:


Transferprojekt RADIS