In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979, a marked scholarly interest in Islam driven by policy concerns developed in Western countries. Hitherto the monopoly of a few Orientalists, Islamic studies soon became a multidisciplinary field, attracting experts across the spectrum of the social sciences and the humanities, and indeed beyond academia, and many studies were carried out on Islamism. This article, which focuses on West Africa, questions some of the widely held assumptions on Islamism. The author’s main argument is that Islamism is not a new phenomenon. A second point made here is that ‘Islamist’ movements are not primarily Salafi. A third point is that ‘Islamists’ are not inherently violent. What is new, according to the author, is the perception of Islamism as a threat in the West.