In This Review

The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism
The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism
By Lamin Sanneh
Westview Press, 1997, 303 pp
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In this erudite work, a Gambian-born professor at the Yale Divinity School explores issues of hybrid religious traditions, toleration, and confrontation with Western colonialism in the history of West Africa's Muslim communities. Sanneh contends that Islam's popularity in West Africa grew from the tenth century onward through its "natural advantages of learning, organization, discipline, duty . . . And its cosmopolitan ethos," as well as its ability to accommodate itself to local traditions. Canonical Islam, for example, sanctioned the slavery practiced among Africans, a tradition Muslim clerics in turn exploited for material gain. Besides slavery, the author tackles other thorny issues of both historical and contemporary relevance, including the adaptation of Quran schools to modern educational needs and the debate between conservative and liberal Muslims over separation of religion and government. A valuable addition to the literature on Islam outside the Arab world.