english عربي
2016 09 20
Los Angeles







Salafi Cowboy is an ongoing collaboration between Ibrahim Mimou (OPENISM) and Yousef Hilmy

Radical expression & all that lies between — from the puritanical to the profane // Spurs in the musallah, early Muslims on the Western frontier // A tongue-in-cheeked, thobe-wearing, ahwa-sipping nomad with (g)nar fits

** Arab and Islamic heritage sampled, re-fabricated, and stitched into cutting edge goods **

What’s a “Salafi” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

“Salafi” is a complicated term and, in many senses, a modern one. It’s both an adjective and a proper noun; a descriptor that can refer to opposing things & people depending on the context in which it’s used and who’s using it.

In the broadest sense, salafis are orthodox, Sunni Muslims who believe that the lived example of al salaf al saliheen (pious predecessors) — the first three generations of Muslims — stands as the modular expression of Islam and the ideal form of adherence to Allah. While most Muslims recognize the salaf as the best generations by virtue of their proximity to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), salafis tend to take their admiration a step further, emulating the early generations of Muslims in every aspect of life, from Quranic exegesis, morality and piety, to the way they dress and eat.

Historically, the term salafi and its corresponding ideology, salafism, has been coopted by (or referred retroactively to) various reform movements advocating for a return to origins, a “pure” Islam free of needless accretions, among them bid’a (religious innovation) and taqlid (imitation). Salafism proposes a skeptical approach toward the centuries of canonical interpretations that make up the Islamic jurisprudential tradition (fiqh), in favor of deducing Islamic shari’a purely from the Qur’an and the sunna (teachings of the prophet). The result is a strict, literalist and essentially static interpretation of Islam, underpinned to a great extent by what Nietzsche called “antiquarian history.”

Islam is not monolithic and most Islamic engagements with modernity, including Salafism, are no exception. Indeed, diverse opinions and expressions exist within the Salafi movement, which has further facilitated confusion over the term. As Yassir Qadhi, a Muslim American scholar, writes, “there is no 'one' Salafī movement, but rather a collection of miscellaneous movements that all can be gathered under the rubric of Salafism.” While some scholars have argued that salafis are by and large apolitical, de-emphasizing political activism in favor of da’wa (preaching), salafism has undeniably flourished in the socio-political contexts of many MENA countries such as Egypt and Jordan post-1960. Certain subgroups also furnish a religious framework through which violent, jihadist expressions — often with political intentions — have been legitimated and carried out.

Lastly, Wahhabism. This refers to the dominant ideology of Saudi Arabia, whose ruling elite— also the nation’s highest religious authorities — promote + fund salafi dogma and terrorist activity throughout the Middle East. In contemporary parlance, Salafism and Wahhabism are used interchangeably, but the latter differs ideologically and is undeniably of a more fanatical and conservative orientation. For clarity, the general rule is that “all Wahhabis are salafis, but not all salafis are Wahhabis,” the latter of which is considered a pejorative throughout the Muslim world, even to its adherents.

Here are some helpful, salafi cowboy approved sources:

Wahhabism, Salafism, and Islamism

On Salafi Islam by Dr Yasir Qadhi

Salafi Movement

The Rise and Differentiation of Modern Salafi Movements


You probably already know what a cowboy is, have a rose-tinted image in your head of a rugged, white male donning spurs, blue jeans, a six-shooter on his hip. This image of course is steeped in myth and has more to do with Hollywood’s depiction of cowboys and the “wild, wild west” than the actuality of cowboys, the things they did, and the times they lived in.

Take for example the fact that the traditional cowboy has its roots in the Spanish world, and that the term “cowboy” itself appears to be a literal translation of vaquero. Much of the accoutrements associated with cowboys — lassos, sombreros, chaps — come from a Latin genealogy. And contrary to popular belief, not all cowboys were white. A third of cowboys were a Mexican vaquero, and a fourth were believed to be black men released from slavery.

Still, the romantic cowboy archetype, etched indelibly in the Western imaginary, remains compelling. It’s seductive to think of the cowboy the way writer D.H Lawrence once described him — as “the essential American soul … an isolate, almost selfless, stoic, enduring man.” A lawless rogue, coexistent with nature, who placed great emphasis on discipline and self-sufficiency. An individual steadfast in his beliefs and expression, fearlessly treading the Western frontier, ​trailblazing the very civilization he sought to escape...

And so, Salafi Cowboy​

Abou Naddara