For Humanity or for the Umma?
Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs
A discussion of how Muslim NGOs function and their global impact in disaster relief and development.
In the wake of 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’, transnational Muslim NGOs have too often been perceived as illegitimate fronts for global militant networks such as al-Qaeda or as backers of national political parties and resistance groups in Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Yet clearly there is more to transnational Muslim NGOs. Most are legitimate providers of aid to the world’s poor, although their assistance may sometimes differ substantially from that of secular NGOs in the West.
Seeking to broaden our understanding of these organisations, Marie Juul Petersen explores how Muslim NGOs conceptualise their provision of aid and the role Islam plays in this. Her book not only offers insights into a new kind of NGO in the global field of aid provision; it also contributes more broadly to understanding ‘public Islam’ as something more and other than political Islam.
The book is based on empirical case studies of four of the biggest transnational Muslim NGOs, and draws on extensive research in Britain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh, and more than 100 interviews with those involved in such organisations.
Marie Juul Petersen is a researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. She has researched and written extensively on religion, aid and NGOs, and her work has appeared in several scientific journals, including Development in Practice, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Third World Quarterly and Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Non-Profit Organizations.
1. INTRODUCTION. STUDYING TRANSNATIONAL MUSLIM NGOs
Transnational Muslim NGOs. Faith-based organisations or fronts for terrorism?
Actors and meanings
Processes of Islamization
Ideologies of aid
Sacralised and secularised aid
Structure of the book
2. APPROACHING TRANSNATIONAL MUSLIM NGOs
Introducing the four organisations
Studying organisational ideologies
The challenges of multi-sited fieldwork
Questions of positioning: Studying the familiar and the foreign
Accessing transnational Muslim NGOs
3. THE CULTURES OF DEVELOPMENT AND ISLAMIC AID
A common humanity: A brief history of development aid
Solidarity with the umma: A brief history of Islamic aid
Dichotomies of aid? Comparing the cultures of development and Islamic aid
4. TRAJECTORIES OF TRANSNATIONAL MUSLIM NGOs
Competition: Transnational Muslim NGOs in the Horn of Africa
Conflicts: Transnational Muslim NGOs in Afghanistan
Co-existence: Transnational Muslim NGOs in Bosnia
A new situation: 9.11. and the ‘War on Terror’
Navigating between cultures
5. PIETY AND PROFESSIONALISM: CLAIMS TO AUTHORITY IN IIROSA AND IICO
Designations and financial decline. IICO and IIROSA after 9.11.
Islamic dignitaries and pious Muslims
Islamic authority: ‘Because of believing in God…’
Professional authority: ‘Our activities are transparent’
Running a health clinic or working in an Islamic organisation?
6. ‘IT’S ALL IN ISLAM!’ AID IDEOLOGIES IN IIROSA AND IICO
Visions of aid
The rationale of aid: A religious duty and a moral responsibility
Strategies of aid: Relief, da’wa, educationa nad empowerment
A sacralised aid?
7. PROFESSIONALISM AND (A BIT OF) PIETY. CLAIMS TO AUTHORITY IN ISLAMIC RELIEF AND MUSLIM AID
Fame and funding opportunities. Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid after 9.11.
Islamic personalities and young professionals
Professional authority: ‘Working towards international standards’
Islamic authority: ‘The humanitarian spirit of Islam’
‘In faith-based organisations, you will never get 100 per cent professionalism’
8. ‘WHAT’S SO ISLAMIC ABOUT US?’ IDEOLOGIES OF AID IN ISLAMIC RELIEF AND MUSLIM AID
Visions of aid
The rationale of aid
Strategies of aid
A secularised aid?
Studying transnational Muslim NGOs
Cultures of aid: Development and Islamic aid
Trajectories of transnational Muslim NGOs
Sacralised or secularised aid?
Developmentalising Islamic aid and Islamising development aid
The emergence of new aid cultures?
‘For Humanity or for the Umma? is a path-breaking study of Muslim NGOs. Avoiding the hype and following the theory and the evidence, Petersen produces a richly textured and nuanced appreciation of how these religious NGOs navigate the worlds in which they are embedded. At once careful and creative, hers is a study that not only shines a light on the complexity of Muslim NGOs, but also points a way toward understanding religious NGOs in an age of emergency and the relief-development nexus.’ — Michael Barnett is University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University, and author of Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism
‘This book will consolidate Marie Juul Petersen’s already secure reputation as an important researcher. With the help of unique field material, from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as well from countries that are easier to study, she shows that contemporary Islamic charities are mixtures of professionalism and piety as heterogeneous as their Christian counterparts, with a cultural dimension too often overshadowed by political controversy.’ — Jonathan Benthall, Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London
‘This empirically detailed and theoretically astute study demonstrates Marie Juul Petersen’s standing as one of the leading scholars of Islamic NGOs in the world today.’ — Cecelia M. Lynch, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Irvine