The influence of traditional and religious groups on modern politics is a significant factor in the development of many countries. In this volume Lucy C. Behrman investigates the political role of religious organizations in the West African country of Senegal.
She introduces her study with analyses of the historical conditions under which the Muslim brotherhoods emerged as a political force and of the ways in which the pattern of relations was established. The Senegalese brotherhoods are tightly-knit organizations, each led by a marabu. whose disciples depend on him in secular as well as religious matters. The political authority of the marabus grew out of the disintegration of the tribal system in the late nineteenth century, when the marabus replaced the nobles as political leaders. The French then reinforced the marabus' power by using them as intermediaries and by helping those who cooperated with the colonial regime to defeat those who did not.
Upon independence in 1960. Senegalese politicians adopted the pattern of cooperation established by the French. Behrman, examining the present role of the brotherhoods, analyzes their inter-relationships as well as their relations with political parties, government officials, the government reform program, and modern Muslim reform groups. She reveals that Senegalese officials often defer to the opinion of the strongest marabus and that, in times of crisis or uncertainty with in the government party, the Union Progressiste Senegalaise, they turn to the marabus for support. She also shows that, although the Muslim leaders occupy such a privileged position in Senegalese society, they do not actually control the government, which is secularand modern in form and is led by Western-educated men devoted to a program of industrialization and agricultural and social reform.x