In This Review

Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa

Islamism and Its Enemies in the Horn of Africa
Edited by Alex De Waal
200 pp, Indiana University Press, 2004

A decade before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in 1996, a fundamentalist Islamic regime emerged in Sudan, with the stated ambition of bringing about a radical transformation of public life throughout northeastern Africa, a notoriously unstable region riven by multiple civil conflicts and traditional rivalries. In this often fascinating book, a must-read for anyone interested in the role of Islam in Africa, de Waal and his collaborators shed considerable light on political Islam's complex legacy in the region. They explain that fundamentalist Islamic ideologies helped create associations that deliver vital social and economic services at the local level but that proved too dogmatic and simplistic to provide much constructive guidance for ruling a modern nation-state; indeed, the romance of permanent jihad led the Sudanese government into a tragically pointless civil war with the non-Muslim south, as well as destructive relations with its neighbors to try to win that war. A particularly excellent chapter discusses the role of Islam in the collapse of the Somali state.