Does a causal interrelation exist between Salafism and Jihadism?

Michail Logvinov


The Salafistic orthopractice in Europe has become a contested phenomenon in Europe in the last years. Many of the scientific and security-governmental experts assume that there is a nexus - which is hardly proven - between Salafism and Islamistic terrorism. This is why the members of the milieu, who think they march the way of their “devout ancestors”, are considered dangerous, and their worldviews to be the “mental hotbed of terrorism”. On the other hand, the author stands for the following thesis: The two phenomena Salafism and Jihadism and/or Jihadist terrorism are connected by a common “historic matrix” - an ancient Islamistic community paradigm serving as an authority of appellation - and a similar understanding of normative Islam. Purpose rationality and logics of the action-legitimating frame-script-selections evinced by both trends, however, are variable. According to an analysis of the terrorist Sauerland-Group and its Salafistic environment, the question of concrete applying of violence in “occupied areas” already separated the Jihadists from their Salafistic surroundings. When attacks in Europe were the topic, the ideological differences became even greater. Later interactions between the Mainstream and the Jihad-Salafists presented a similar picture. Thus, the Moderates led by Denis Cuspert and Mohamed Mahmoud turned away for the greater part because of their radical appearances and texts, which led to a further radicalisation of the “desktop-Jihadists”. Cuspert calls his critics „chicken preachers“, who keep the “truth” about the duty of every Muslim for the Jihad secret because they are afraid of state-run persecution. In the German Salafism and radicalisation research one can detect a paradox situation: On the one hand, mostly without empirical results, it is assumed that Salafism triggers radicalisation processes, thus leading to terrorism and to Jihadism. On the other hand, however, there is some “peculiar lack of interest” in the religious backgrounds of Jihadism. By this means one cannot answer the question of the “familiarity” of Salafism and Jihadism/terrorism, though. It is contraproductive to assign the role of the terroristic hotbed and the resulting marginal status of deviance to Mainstream-Salafism. On the one hand, this perspective occludes the view on the actual reasons of radicalisation. On the other hand, this procedure is anticipated by the respective actors and used for their counter-cultural purposes. At the same time, it fosters perceptions and experiences of marginalisation which prove to be an important factor on the way to extremism. The „Civil War in Europe“ propagated by al-Suri and the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) - supported by parts of the badly integrated, revolting and stigmatised Muslim juveniles with migration background - can more easily triggered in this way. Above all, however, the perception-dominant perspective on “The Salafism” as a “terroristic geyser” or “ideological foundation of the Islamic State” diverts from the actual threateners and “conspiratively radicalised”.