While most jihadists are Salafists, the reverse is not true. In fact, Salafism – an ultraconservative branch of Sunni Islam that promotes a return to the traditions of the earliest generations of Muslims – is a much broader phenomenon than jihadism. Three types of Salafist entities, all acting as centrifugal forces, are pulling Salafism in divergent directions. Though this puritanical interpretation of Islam has played a critical role in producing violent extremism in recent decades, it also contains a potential antidote to jihadism.
Three broad types of Salafism currently exist: quietist, jihadist and electoral.
These three groupings are competitors in a triangular struggle to claim the ideological mantle of Salafism.
Since the 1970s, the struggle increasingly has involved those emphasizing proselytization (quietists) and those seeking to impose the austere ideology via force (jihadists).
In more recent years, especially in the aftermath of the Arab Sp