“Gaining Knowledge”; Salafi Activism in German and Dutch Online Forums

Carmen Becker

Abstract

Recent years have witnessed an expansion of Salafi activism into computer-mediated environments like online discussion forums. Forum activities are part of the activists' endeavour to access the religious sources (Quran and Sunnah) and, through these sources, the lives of the prophet Muhammad and the first generations of Muslims. The prophet and the first generations embody the perfect model of a (Muslim) life which Salafi Muslims strive to emulate. This article analyses the knowledge practices of Salafi Muslims in Dutch and German discussion forums revolving around the religious sources. Knowledge practices are understood as meaning-making activities that tell people how to behave and how to “be in the world”. Four aspects are central to Salafi knowledge practices in Dutch and German forums: (1) Fragmentation and re-alignment form the basic ways of dealing with digitized corpus of Islamic knowledge and (2) open the way for Salafi Muslims to engage in “Islamic argumentation” in the course of which they “excavate” behavioural rules in form of a “script” from Quran and Sunnah. (3) These practices are set within the cognitive collaboration of forum members and part of a broader decentralizing tendency within Islam. (4) And finally, narratives and sensual environments circulating in forums help activists to overcome contradictions and ambiguities while trying to put the script, which tells them what to do in which situation, into practice.

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