A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Debates among Salafi Muslims about use of violence


This summary report discusses the common religious concepts used in Salafi Muslim discourse to discuss violence and non-violence. It offers a short summary of Salafi debates surrounding the concept of jihad and focuses on the most common religious concepts used by Salafis to justify violent action and the major religious concepts employed in non-violent Salafi discourse.

This summary report summarizes research from a larger project, the Counter-Narrative Knowledge Tool for CVE Practitioners and Communities, which seeks to curate a library of violent narratives and pair them with non-violent counternarratives and alternative narratives that will serve as a resource for anyone engaged in countering violent extremism. The curated library is intended to help raise awareness of the messaging used by violent extremists and their non-violent supporters to bolster their social legitimacy and recruit individuals into their movement. Additionally, the library could help inform and expedite counter-messaging efforts, which include identifying gaps in current counternarrative and alternative narrative content.

Though this report focuses on debates among Salafi Muslims about violence and non-violence, the larger project not only examines extremist narratives espoused by violent extremist movements such as al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL), but also includes narratives employed by violent U.S. far-right extremist actors, including violent white supremacists, militia violent extremists, violent sovereign citizens and violent anti-abortion extremists. A literature survey and this resulting summary report explores Salafism as a broad religious movement within Sunni Islam, and identifies intra-Salafi debates on violence and non-violence. The research team notes explicitly that this inquiry does not constitute an endorsement of a strategy that promotes or rejects non-violent Salafis and their ideas as bulwarks against violent Salafis and their ideas. Rather, this literature survey is simply one step toward developing a more comprehensive understanding of the weaknesses in violent Salafi recruitment narratives.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Beutel, Alejandro, and William Braniff, Bria Ballard, Christopher Lee. 2016. "Debates among Salafi Muslims about use of violence." START Summary Report, College Park, MD. May. http://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_DebatesAmongSalafiMuslimsAboutViolence_SummaryReport_May2017.pdf