This collection of 1991 conference papers examines the often complex evolution of Islam in a variety of African countries in recent decades, emphasizing the interaction between Islamic groups as they wrestle with issues of local tradition, doctrinal reform, political patronage, and increasing Westernization. Where open forms of political activity have been suppressed, some authors argue, Islam has become a vehicle to express ideological, socioeconomic, and political rivalries. Where governments have failed to provide needed social services, Muslim groups have begun to respond to demands for education and welfare in ways largely ignored by Western development agencies.
The book's wealth of historical detail will please experts in this field. The lack of a glossary of Arabic terms will frustrate the nonspecialist. Also frustrating is the failure of either of the book's two chapters on the Sudan -- sub-Saharan Africa's only state to institute shari ah law -- to adequately explain how the political manipulation of religious conflict facilitated the rise of that country's current regime. Other countries discussed include Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa.