Religion in West Africa: Cosmpolitanism, Faith Communities, and the Social Fabric

Programs > Religion in West Africa

We have ‘re-baptized’ our Rethinking Islam in West Africa lecture series to encompass a broader spectrum of religions and faith communities present in the region. 

Mark Your Calendars:
Our first lecture will be on Thursday November 13, 2014 and will feature Shobana Shankar of  Stonybrook University. The title of Professor Shankar’s presentation is “’Pagans’ in Northern Nigeria: Colonial Policies and the Death of Pluralism”


February 23, 2012
Youth, Religion, and Cultural Identity in the Era of Globalization:  Hizbut Tarqiyya (Senegal) 1975-2008
Ibra Sene, The College of Wooster


As part of the jointly sponsored series Rethinking Islam in West Africa, Boston University African Studies Center and the West African Research Association were pleased to welcome Ibra Sene of the College of Wooster for this year’s second talk in the series.

On February 24, 2012, Dr. Sene presented a lecture on the history of the Hizbut Tarqiyya in Senegal. The Hizbut Tarqiyya, he explained, was established in 1975 as the Dahira des Etudiants Mourides (DEM), a student group at Université de Dakar (now Université Cheikh Anta Diop).

Among other things, the Sahelian drought of the seventies triggered a rural exodus throughout the region, including Senegal. Murids, who had heretofore been primarily based in rural Senegal, began moving to the cities and to destinations outside of Senegal. A second generation of Murids was now entering the state education system and would play an important role in the establishment of the DEM. Over the following decade, the membership of the organization and its activities grew significantly. As a result of that, the DEM moved off campus to the Rue 10 neighborhood, then to SICAP Mermoz. In the early 1990s, the 5th Khalife General of the Murids, Serigne Saliou Mbacke, renamed the DEM Hizbut Tarqiyya, and in 1995, the group relocated to the holy city of Touba. This coincided with the 100th anniversary of the deportation of Cheikh Bamba to Gabon by the French, an event commemorated annually by the Maggal in Touba. This relocation was a major milestone in the development of the organization, which became gradually a major actor in Touba until it was momentarily banned from the holy city, between 1998 and the early 2000s.

Today the Hizbut Tarqiyya remains an influential Murid group, both within Senegal and the diaspora and continues to attract many young people. The emphasis of Hizbut has been on a reformist approach to Islam while insisting upon an African identity. Its growing media presence allows it to promote these values at home and abroad.


Rethinking Islam in West Africa: Legal, Political and Artistic Perspectives

A series of lectures to promote better understanding between the U.S. and the Muslim World

A Boston University African Studies Center and West African Research Association Collaboration

November 3, 2011
Ismail Rashid, Vassar College
Islamic Diversity and Radicalization in Sierra Leone

October 10, 2013
Rudolph Ware, University of Michigan
“The Walking Qu’ran”

Click here to view the video.

April 20, 2011
Beverly Mack, University of Kansas
“West African Roots of American Islam (Part 1)”

Continue watching: Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7 and Part 8.

September 28, 2010
Zeinabou Hadari, Niger Office of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Islamic-based strategies for female empowerment in Niger


November 9, 2010
Ousseina Alidou, Rutgers
“Muslim Women Reshaping Islam:  West Africa in a Global Context”

May 3, 2010
Jeremy Keenan, University of Bristol
“The War on Terror and Al Qaeda in Tuareg NW Africa”

September 15, 2010
Allen F. Roberts, UCLA
‘Repetition for Itself”: Iterative Arts of Senegal

February 26, 2010
Hauwa Ibrahim, Harvard University
Reflections on Practicing Law in Shari’a Courts

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