Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2010

Sufism in Northern Nigeria: Force for Counter-Radicalization?

Jonathan N. C. Hill

May 2010

The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College


In light of the ongoing threats issued by Al Qaeda against the United States and its allies, the need to prevent the radicalization of young Muslim men and women remains as pressing as ever. Perhaps nowhere is this task more urgent than in the countries of West Africa. The global expanse of the ongoing war on terror places these territories in the frontline. With large Muslim populations that have hitherto remained mostly impervious to the advances of Islamism, the challenge now confronting the Nigerian government and the international community is ensuring that this remains the case. But in recent years, Islamist groups have been highly active in the region. The aim of this monograph is to assess the potential of Nigeria’s Sufi Brotherhoods to act, both individually and collectively, as a force for counter-radicalization, to prevent young people from joining Islamist groups.