Key Facts

Principal Investigator:

  • Dr. Youssef Dennaoui, Institut für Katholische Theologie an der Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH), Aachen

Duration: 10/2020 – 09/2024


Practice Partners

  • City of Aachen (Program „Wegweiser – together against Islamismus“) (Website)
  • NRW-Netzwerk CoRE (Connecting Research on Extremism in North Rhine-Westphalia) (Website in German)
  • Islamic mosque communities
  • Centers of Islamic theology in Germany

Religious conflicts of interpretation and outbidding in the global field of Salafism (Power of Interpretation / Deutungsmacht)

A comparative study of Salafist beliefs in Germany and Morocco

Salafist theology often differs from other orientations in the religious field of Islam because of its polemical communication, which can take different forms. One of these forms is 'religious outbidding', which is understood in the project as a conflictive competitive strategy that aims to achieve interpretive authority over Islam and Muslims. Through the Salafist use of outbidding techniques, authoritative texts and theological discourse traditions of Islam are read in an intensified and selective manner. The result of this reading is presented as the 'pure' and 'authentic' Islam. Religious outbidding is discussed among Muslim theologians as religious exaggeration (mughalat). However, various questions have not yet been adequately answered, especially with regard to context, trajectories, and consequences. The project is therefore guided by the question of when and under what conditions religious outbidding struggles lead to the conflicts that foster polarization and radicalisation in the field of Islam.

The project addresses these questions through a discourse-analytical and sociological reconstruction of key Salafist texts and their modes of appropriation in two different contexts (Morocco and Germany). The focus is on debates and discourses that guide Salafist theologies: especially discourses of purity and authenticity, loss and salvation, and loyalty and renunciation. These will be analysed comparatively in their respective contexts (Morocco/Germany) and evaluated for their possible radicalising effects. By comparing Morocco and Germany, the results of the analysis are on the one hand validated comparatively and on the other hand do justice to the transnational character of Salafist discourses of outbidding.

The research results will be used to assess existing measures against radical Salafism in Germany or to generate new ones. Existing approaches will be evaluated and new approaches will be developed in cooperation with various actors, including the city of Aachen (The "Wegweiser - together against Islamism" program), the CoRE network in North Rhine-Westphalia, Islamic mosque communities, and different centres of Islamic theology in Germany. The guiding principle is to establish cultures of prevention against religious radicalisation on the ground that take transreligious and translocal causes into account.

Film "Project Deutungsmacht" | Duration 1"40' | Realisation Shaimaa Abdellah // Ute Seitz | PRIF 2023


What exactly does the phenomenon of 'religious outbidding' mean in Islam and what role does it play in radicalisation? The "Power of Interpretation" project, which analyses competitive strategies of Salafism in times of crisis, sheds light on this question. In the interview, project leader Dr. Youssef Dennaoui explains how such strategies of outbidding work in different contexts, particularly in Morocco and Germany. He provides an insight into the challenges and research approaches to interpreting the concept and reveals the project's initial findings. Read more.