Book Project

One of the most striking phenomena of the late twentieth century is the global rise of Islamic fundamentalism. In the last few decades, scholars and commentators have noted a marked increase in fundamentalism in sub-Saharan Africa. Case studies suggest that this change is impacting politics in meaningful ways including the adoption of Islamic law, political mobilization of religious elites, and proliferation of militancy.

Despite the implications of this movement for political order and social cohesion, we have limited understanding of its emergence and impact on politics in sub-Saharan Africa. My book project seeks to characterize Islamic conservatism, explore its origins, and assess how it is shaping the social identities and political life of Muslim minorities in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Uganda.

Despite the potential consequences of Islamic conservatism on politics, a characterization of it is sorely missing. The first section of this book provides systematic insight into the beliefs and behaviors of leaders and adherents and explores their implications for politics.

The second part of the book examines the roots of fundamentalist ideology in sub-Saharan Africa. I trace its origins to Arab missionary activity beginning in the 1960s. I specifically find evidence of the diffusion of conservative ideas through transnational educational networks: recruitment of African students for study in Islamic educational institutions in Arab countries.

In the third part of the book, I assess how conservative Islam influences politics. I leverage sermon data, imam surveys, and congregant surveys to explore the role conservative mosques play in changing political preferences and fostering the political mobilization of religious identity.