Frequently Asked Questions

AK Party, The

The AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) or Justice and Development Party is a center-right Islamist political party founded in 2001 and the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It emerged from the reformist wing of the banned Islamic Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi) and is comprised of a coalition of politicians, many of whom were supporters of Turgut Özal and Neҫmettin Erbakan’s Refah Parti (Welfare Party) in the 1980s and 1990s....

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Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera is a Qatar-based television network which began broadcasting in 1996. Al Jazeera grew in notoriety in the West for its highly critical coverage of the U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan and, especially, Iraq. Connections with Islamists facilitated access to people that other networks didn’t have, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not only was Al Jazeera the first global network on the ground in Afghanistan, it could offer interviews with Taliban leaders. It was also the first network during the war that could bypass Pentagon restrictions on images of violence, which are...

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Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar University is one of the world’s oldest educational institutions, founded in 972 by the Fatimids, and continues to serve as one of the most prominent centers of Sunni religious orthodoxy in the Muslim world. Many members of Egypt’s religious scholarly class, the ‘ulama, are graduates of al-Azhar. Al-Azhar has long played a role in Egyptian and wider Muslim politics, at times lending support and legitimacy to ruling powers and at other times serving to represent popular opinion against ruling powers.


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Al-Islaah is a moderate Islamist movement that formed in the 1970s and is affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It evolved from a postwar social service network, recognized for the quality of its hospitals and schools (including the University of Mogadishu), to a political movement with broad support from students, professionals, and business people. It has rejected violence. Damul Jadiid (DJ)—"New Blood"—is a faction within al-Islaah that broke with the organizational rejection of violence and joined the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Current president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud...

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Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI) is an Islamist militant organization that was founded in opposition to the Siad Barre regime, formed from an assortment of various Wahhabi groups. It took a strong political and military stance against Ethiopia and sought to regain the Ogaden region for Somalia. Some members of the AIAI leadership emerged as prominent leaders in the Islamic Courts Union, including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys...

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Al-Shabaab is a radical Islamist militant movement in Somalia that emerged following the United States supported Ethiopian conflict that brought down the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Al-Shabaab has affiliated itself with, and receives support from, the transnational radical Islamist organization al-Qaeda. It is not a defined or clearly-organized movement, but rather al-Shabaab represents a network of clan-militias, foreign fighters attracted to the “Somali jihad,” and business interests....

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Al-Thani Family

The al-Thani family, a member of the Tamimi tribe, is the ruling family of Qatar. Unlike other Arab rulers, the family is neither a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad nor of long-standing tenure in their kingdom; rather, their rise to power was the result of British and Ottoman imperial politics. As their rise parallels the creation of an independent Qatar, the two entities are inextricably linked. 

The British designation of the al-Thanis as monarchs of Qatar was by no means assured as there were other families with greater connections, power, and/or longevity in the...

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Aladura Churches in Nigeria

The Aladura churches are independent African churches (or African Instituted Churches—AICs), that emphasize prayer and healing. Aladura is the Yoruba word for “praying people.” The Aladura churches reflect the indigenization of Christianity through its use of African symbols, traditional healing modalities, and worship styles.

Where earlier churches emphasized salvation in the hereafter, the Aladura churches offer solutions to this-world problems. Aladura churches are led by a...

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The Alawi creed originated in Iraq during the ninth century. Muhammad ibn Nusayr al-Bakri al-Numari (d. 883) was a disciple of the eleventh Shi’a Imam Hasan al-Askari (d. 873) but was reportedly denounced by the Imam for his unorthodox views. He did establish a wide following, however, and the community grew enough to develop into a faith and to train theologians. By the eleventh century, there were two Alawi centers; one in Baghdad, Iraq and one in Latakia, Syria. The Baghdad center was destroyed by the Mongols in 1258.

Alawi Muslims practice an esoteric form of...

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