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An Islamic Caliphate in the Africa context – Dr. Glen Segell

March 26, 2017

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An Islamic Caliphate in the Africa context 

By Glen Segell

RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 5 (2017), Number 4 (March 2017)

A thesis is that regime types and leadership are important in defining an Islamic Caliphate in the Africa context in addition to the beliefs and practices of the population. Extrapolating this thesis means that Islam in Africa can be viewed in a number of ways, when considering the notion of an Islamic Caliphate. In all of these there is consensus that the definition of an Islamic Caliphate would negate the existence of the Western notion of a sovereign nation state with defined geographic borders. But what are the interim stages and definitions? One way is to start with the current situation of 54 sovereign nation states on the African continent. Each of these needs to be viewed based on certain criteria. For example the number of people who identify themselves as Muslims in any sovereign state. If there is a majority then the state can be considered a state of Muslims. If the majority of the residents are observant Muslims then it could be said that the state may exhibit Islamism. If the regime has Islamic law and practices then it could be said that it is an Islamic state. All of these could be said to be applicable ways to evaluate whether or not Islam is increasing in Africa towards the emergence of a

One way is to start with the current situation of 54 sovereign nation states on the African continent. Each of these needs to be viewed based on certain criteria. For example the number of people who identify themselves as Muslims in any sovereign state. If there is a majority then the state can be considered a state of Muslims. If the majority of the residents are observant Muslims then it could be said that the state may exhibit Islamism. If the regime has Islamic law and practices then it could be said that it is an Islamic state. All of these could be said to be applicable ways to evaluate whether or not Islam is increasing in Africa towards the emergence of a continent wide Caliphate. But this is not the only way. Also and in the manner of 20

But this is not the only way. Also and in the manner of 20th Century political science research it is possible to evaluate regime types and leadership. That is to say then in the Cold War the question was asked if the states’ leader or the states’ regime was Communist. If the answer was YES then the state was considered to be in the Eastern Soviet bloc. Little or no attempt was made to evaluate the beliefs of the mass population. Then in the Cold War it could be said that of the 50 states in Africa there were no true democracies. The vast majority of post-colonial regimes espoused authoritarian regimes. Communism and relations with the Soviet Union was popular amongst the leaders mainly because the former colonial master states were within the Western Bloc. Similarly today then the alternative approach to considering Islam in Africa is not to ask the beliefs of the citizens. Rather it is to ask how many leaders or cabinet ministers are Muslims in Africa’s 54 states.  If the answer is the majority then in political science terminology Africa is an Islamic continent and hence an Islamic Caliphate. In line with all these types of

In line with all these types of evaluations there is no doubt that Islam is gaining ground over Christianity or is being preferred to paganism as a popular belief or as a way of life. Africa in March 2017 is not an Islamic Caliphate but is not far from being one under such definitions. For example a quick straw poll shows that of Africa’s 54 sovereign states there is no doubt that 14 states north of the Sahara have a majority of Muslim residents, while south of the Sahara there are a further 8 states that have a majority of citizens who practice Islam; and in addition another 11 states in Africa have a substantial number of cabinet ministers or leaders that are Muslims.  Those that are not following the path towards Islam are few, for example South Sudan. Hence one thing is for certain, in the Africa context, and that is that Islam is increasing and that there is no apparent alternative. So an African Islamic Caliphate is an almost certainty.

However as history has shown the existence of an Islamic Caliphate doesn’t mean that it will be a vibrant and religious Islamic Caliphate. Nor does it mean that disputes will not arise as to who is the Caliph of the Caliphate. More certain is that the history of Africa shows that an Islamic Caliphate will probably not last any longer than the authoritarian or Communist regimes of the 20th Century and for the same reasons.

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