KEYWORDS: INTRODUCTION - ASR FOCUS: ISLAMISM IN WEST AFRICA
The idea to convene a special forum on “Islamism in West Africa” occurred to me while attending an African Studies Association Roundtable at our meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2002. A full year had elapsed since September 11, 2001, and the onset of the U.S.-led campaign to rout the Taliban from Afghanistan. Personal post-9/11 experience in Africa, as well as the writings and communications of other colleagues, had convinced me that in certain circles throughout the continent bin Laden had unexpectedly emerged as a kind of folk hero. Just how widely the Osama rage had taken hold—whether it was a fleeting Afro-pop phenomenon or a serious political challenge—began to loom as a pressingaffaire d'état. Suddenly, black Africa was being reexamined by U.S. intelligence and media alike through the prism of potential apologists for “Islamic terrorism,” or worse. What, I wondered, would the African Muslim landscape look like by the time the African Studies Association was to reconvene in 2003? More important, what was the true state of Islamism in sub-Saharan Africa?