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Being Young and MuslimNew Cultural Politics in the Global South and North$
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Asef Bayat and Linda Herrera

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195369212

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369212.001.0001

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The Battle of the Ages: Contests for Religious Authority in The Gambia

The Battle of the Ages: Contests for Religious Authority in The Gambia

(p.95) 6 The Battle of the Ages: Contests for Religious Authority in The Gambia
Being Young and Muslim

Marloes Janson

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the link between youth culture, religiosity, and politics by focusing on the Tabligh Jama’at, a transnational Islamic missionary movement that originated in South Asia and expanded in The Gambia during the past 15 years. A case study of the Gambisara mosque dispute, a dispute that is closely connected with the proliferation of the Tabligh Jama’at in The Gambia, illustrates that contests for religious authority and power are being played out by two opposing groups: the traditional elders, represented by the parents’ generation holding moral authority, and the local Sufi clerics or marabouts holding religious authority on the one hand, and the younger Tablighis on the other. Gambian youth are located within a political economy in which they are subordinated to Muslim elders and have little opportunities. Islamic missionary work, that is, tabligh, seems to give quite a number of young men meaning and purpose, and provides them with an instrument to free themselves from the elders’ hegemony. Although the Tablighi youth reject the Islam practiced by their parents and the marabouts as being “rigid,” the Islam propagated by them is actually more rigid than that of the older generation in that it leaves no space for local traditions. It remains to be seen what the effects of this inverted social order will be in the long term.

Keywords:   West Africa, The Gambia, Islamic reform, Tabligh Jama’at, youth culture, political economy

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