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Understanding Muslims’ Support for Suicide Bombing in West Africa: A Replication Study


perspectives-on-terrorism-10-5Journal abstract

Support for Islamist violence among Muslims—howsoever varied—is theoretically and practically important because scholars have demonstrated that popular support for terrorism may explain where terrorist events occur even though the mechanistic details of this predictive utility are disputed. For this and other empirical and theoretical reasons, scholars from various disciplines and scholarly commitments have sought to exposit respondent-level determinants of support for Islamist political violence. One of the common variables that is used in these studies is support for Shari’ah (often referred to as “Islamic law”); however, scholars using this variable arrive at divergent conclusions. Recent studies of Pakistan and Bangladesh suggest one reason for this is the way in which scholars conceptualize and instrumentalize Shari’ah. This scholarship argues that Shari’ah should be decomposed into at least three components, support for: scriptural literalism, good governance and restrictions on women. Using 2009 data from Pew’s Tolerance and Tension, we replicate the empirical estimation strategies of those scholars to extend this analytical framework to four West African countries (Ghana, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau and Liberia), which have been neglected by scholars of Islamist political violence. We find considerable support for this framework. Notably, in Ghana and Liberia, support for scriptural literalism coincides with support for religious violence. We find no correlation between religiosity and support for violence in any of the four countries. In Guinea Bissau, we find a puzzling positive relationship between secularism and support for violence.

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