Salafis 101: 5 key facts

Salafi Muslims are often associated with militant Islam and violent groups such as Al Qaeda, though most Salafis disavow violent jihad. Repressed for decades by secular dictators such as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Zine Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Salafis may find new breathing room now that the Arab Spring has ousted such leaders. Here are five facts to help you understand them.

What does 'Salafi' mean?

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    As many as 70,000 Egyptians belonging to the Salafi religious movement, which favors a strict interpretation of Islam, gathered April 1, for a convention at a mosque in Cairo.
    Mohannad Sabry/MCT/Newscom
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The word “Salafi” is derived from the Arabic word “salaf.” Salaf means “predecessor” or “forefather” and refers to the first three generations of Muslims.

Salafis today consider the earliest practice of Islam to be the purest form of the religion. They strive to emulate their predecessors in everything from the interpretation of religious texts to personal morality.

The prophet Mohammed is said to have declared, “I am the best Salaf for you.”

There is disagreement today – even among Salafis – about who qualifies as a Salafi, resulting in conflicts between various Salafi groups or movements.

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