Research Question: What are the implications of the movement of Afghan Mujahideen to Southern Africa in the 1980s for understanding Muslim political subjectivity in the anti-apartheid struggle and the apartheid regime’s counterinsurgency strategies and how does this animate visions of Jihad as a fluid and polysemic field of meaning?
This PhD dissertation will examine what the implications of the movement of Afghan Mujahideen to Southern Africa in the 1980s is for understanding Muslim political subjectivity in the anti-apartheid struggle and the apartheid regime’s counterinsurgency strategies and how do these animate visions of Jihad as a fluid and polysemic field of meaning? The concept of Jihad is applied and mobilized discursively and politically across three thematic sites of literatures on the term, historiography of South African Muslim movements in the anti-apartheid struggle, and theories of Cold War era counterinsurgency strategies. The study brings to the surface the extent to which Jihad is a polysemic field through its examination of the ideological struggles of the Cold War, the internal ideological struggle of the meaning of Jihad and the geopolitical positioning of the Mujahideen within the Cold War, as an anti-communist proxy to the West. The literatures fall within three broad thematic areas, literatures on the concept of Jihad, its development as an ideology and its practice in the 1970s and 1980s, historiography of South African Muslim movements between 1979 and 1989 and beyond, and critical literatures on Cold War era counterinsurgency strategies. These are framed by a critical engagement with Cold War studies and historiographies of national liberation in Southern Africa.
This dissertation aims to critically analyse the way in which the polysemic field of Jihad crossed political terrains that appear to be mutually antagonistic. The entanglements, complex conjunctures, and fluid fields within the ideology of Jihad open up Cold War discourses and Southern African liberation struggles to new understandings. For if jihad served as a motivation for the Afghan Mujahideen as well as some South African Muslim movements to participate actively in these larger conflicts, Jihad had a different meaning for the Afghan Mujaheedeen than the meaning it had for South African Muslim movements. By examining these differences and how each served as a motivation in the discourses of the Cold War and anti-apartheid struggle, the complexities and contradictions of the term begin to surface and invite a rethinking of South African Muslim political subjectivities of the time, on the one hand. On the other, in critically analysing how Jihad may have been co-opted into doctrines and tactics of counterinsurgency, both within the apartheid regime’s counterinsurgency strategy in South Africa, as well as American doctrines of counterinsurgency tactics. I will be examining how Jihad as a polysemic concept may trouble or disrupt fixed ideas of “Jihad” and “political Islam” in its post-Cold War usages. These aims are achieved through the examination of both primary and secondary sources. I have chosen to work with three South African Muslim political formations which actively embraced the struggle against apartheid, these three movements were a centrist grouping led by the Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) which was established in 1970; a Pan-Africanist trend with their strongest component being Qiblah established in 1980; and a South Africanist grouping whose strongest component was The Call of Islam. Interviews will be conducted with former members of the former groups mentioned. Archival material will also be used from the Muslim Views archive as well as the Mayibuye archives based at the University of the Western Cape. I will also critically engage with intellectual genealogies of political Islam as well as counter-insurgency studies and transnational politics of mobility in order to identify the strategies that allow for mobility to take place within certain geographical spaces by groups like the Mujahedeen thereby being able to identify where the disruptions within political categories may have taken place.
The idea of jihad as a polysemic category will be developed from reading the circumstances described, with the argument of the three main theoretical sites examined and the different meanings that they produce. Alongside the examination and analysis of the larger political implications of the category of Jihad and the Cold War on South Africa and those who ascribe to Islam globally.
 Esack, F. in Three Islamic strands in the South African Struggle for Justice, (1988). Qiblah was established in 1980. The movement saw itself as “local defenders of the Islamic revolution.” Their ideas were based primarily on the slogan “neither East nor West, Islam is best.”