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Not My Brother’s Keeper: Factional Infighting in Armed Islamist Movements


Islamists in civil wars often prioritize their factional conflicts above the collective goals of their movements. They end up fighting and killing each other despite having mutual state adversaries and shared normative commitments. This reality raises an intriguing puzzle. How can Islamists justify fratricidal practices given the ubiquity of Quranic scripture and prophetic traditions that prevail upon them to unite and refrain from infighting. This article explores two religious narratives that rationalize violent infighting between Islamist factions. The Victorious Sect narrative depicts rival Islamist factions as insufficiently Islamic by harboring political pluralism and nationalism in their ideological platforms. These deviations from orthodoxy are proof of their ineligibility to lead the Islamist movement. The other narrative depicts rival factions as modern day Kharijites or Muslim extremists that must be repelled and driven out of the Islamist movement because they undermine its legitimacy. Although these narratives do not necessarily drive factional struggles for power, they are important because they rationalize and publicly justify the highly controversial act of Islamists killing one another in their quest for movement supremacy.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Hafez, Mohammed M. 2019. "Not My Brother’s Keeper: Factional Infighting in Armed Islamist Movements." Journal of Religion and Violence (November). https://www.pdcnet.org/jrv/content/jrv_2019_0999_11_22_65

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