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Sounaye, Abdoulaye

Governing Muslim Subjects in the Sahel

Deradicalisation and a State-Led Islamic Reform in West Africa

In: (Ed.)
Claiming and Making Muslim Worlds
Religion and Society in the Context of the Global

de Gruyter, 2021

p. 101-129


This chapter focuses on deradicalisation, a concept and a practice that has become popular in initiatives that seek to govern Muslims in the Sahel. A
key element in the vocabulary of the state and international organisations operating in the region, deradicalisation emerged in the last decade as a major social engineering project intended to reform Muslims and to rebirth them to positive values and norms. To this end, the deradicalised subjects are expected to “clean up”, “be treated”, “relax their views”, and embrace responsible citizenship. Espousing a developmentalist agenda and philosophy, deradicalisation translates into a strategy that tackles Jihadism and restores good Islam. Both curative and preventive, it is understood as the clinical intervention on both an ailing social body and a lunatic individual subject. That is why it targets individuals and specific groups, such as Imams, preachers, disenfranchised youth, and jihadi prisoners who are perceived as the social base and the main agents of radicalisation. What is the content of this curative intervention? How did this social engineering programme come to represent one of the main lenses through which Muslims are perceived today and in turn experience state policies? What is the interest of examining deradicalisation for an anthropology of Islam and Muslim life in the region? The chapter contends that Sahelian states have embarked on an Islamic reform project through deradicalisation programmes.