The literature generally emphasises that while relations between Christian and Muslim groups are increasingly tense, there is evidence that Tanzania is not ‘a battleground for conflicting civilisations’ (Heilman & Kaiser 2002, p. 692). Many argue that while a number of identity groups (political, religious, ethnic) have served as the basis for political organisation and conflict at one point or another, no particular identity has crystallised as a major dividing line.
However, there is increasing evidence that Islamist mobilisation has become more prominent and challenges moderate and state-run Islamic associations. Even though, at the moment, still very few analyses are studying the spread and the mechanisms of radicalisation in Tanzania. The literature argues that Islamist groups, taking advantage of their religious legitimacy as provider of a ‘real’ and ‘pure’ Islam compared to Sufism, are instrumentalising domestic political and economic issues to promote their view of a more politically engaged Islam (Haynes 2005, p. 1333; Becker 2006; Haynes 2006, p. 491). To do so, they are also building on the historical perception of discrimination against Muslims since the colonial era (Heilman & Kaiser 2002, p. 704; Bakari 2012).
In the current context of growing disappointment towards political and economic liberalisation which has not brought the expected benefits to the population, this could create a dangerous situation (Haynes 2006; Bakari 2012).
The shift towards Islamic fundamentalism is also supported by external actors, such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as the most influent ideological sources of the radical branch of Islam Wahhabism. Moreover, analysts have recently highlighted evidence showing the links between Tanzanian individuals and associations and regional terrorist groups (Glickam 2011; LeSage 2014). This recent evidence supports suspicion of the increased involvement of Tanzania within these regional and global terrorist networks.