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Reaping the Fruits of One’s Labour05 Apr 2018
Research Fellow Zoltan Pall’s book, “Salafism in Lebanon” was recently published! It is a book project that he holds dearly and takes pride in. Read on if you want to understand his research process and get a snapshot of the book’s contents.
After nearly a decade of fieldwork, travels, adventures, sweat and anxiety I finally managed to hold the fruit of my hard work in my hand. Cambridge University Press just released my monograph Salafism in Lebanon: Local and Transnational Movements.
The whole idea of researching Salafism in Lebanon came when I was writing news reports as a foreign correspondent of a Hungarian daily paper around 2007-2008. During my travels in the Sunni majority northern regions of this religiously and culturally diverse country, I observed that the message of shaykhs who preached a puritan and literalist interpretation of Sunni Islam gained traction. The deepening political and sectarian cleavages, especially between the Sunnis and Shi‘is enhanced this process. It seemed as a good idea to follow the trajectory of this nascent movement, as I expected that they would gain prominence in the near future. My prediction was right, as especially after the outbreak of the Syrian conflict that deeply divided Lebanon, many Sunnis listened to the word of the Salafis, who provided an easily understandable, Manichean religious frame to what’s going on in Lebanon and the wider region.
This book is a result of years-long field research in the northern areas of Lebanon. I also spent months in Kuwait, and weeks in Qatar, to interview the main bankrollers of Lebanese Salafis. The monograph provides insights into the evolution and dynamics of non-violent Salafi groups and scrutinizes how transnational networks shaped their trajectory.
The first three chapters discuss the history of Lebanese Salafism, it’s emergence from a nucleus with a few dozen members to a large movement with thousands of followers and sympathizers. It provides insights how sociopolitical developments in Lebanon, such as the emergence of the Shi‘i armed group Hizbullah, the diminishing authority of the Sunni religious establishment and the Arab Uprisings contributed to the popularity of Salafis. This part of the book also provides an explanation how splits within Salafism in the Persian Gulf affected the Lebanese Salafi scene and contributed to its fragmentation.
The second half of the monograph consists of four chapters, and it scrutinizes the structure of Salafism. It explains the authority of the Salafi shaykhs, and shows how they intend to build up their own image as the ideal Muslims. The chapters also examine the makeup of local and transnational networks, and observe the processes and strategies of recruitment.
The book is now on Amazon, in the Bookshops, and you can download on your Kindle as well so you can bring it to the beach. Happy reading!