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Transnational Islamic NGOs in Chad: Islamic Solidarity in the Age of Neoliberalism

Transnational Islamic NGOs in Chad: Islamic Solidarity in the Age of Neoliberalism

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Journal article published in Africa Today, a publication of Indiana University Press. Volume 54, Number 3. You can purchase this journal from IU Press at: http://inscribe.iupress.org/loi/aft

In the current era of neoliberalism, there is not only an
expansion of Western influence in many parts of Africa, but
also increased influence from the Arab world. Transnational
Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are a vehicle
of this influence. In a context of structural adjustment, an
increased spread of Western consumption ideals through mass
communication, and a growing sense of the global context
in which one is living, these organizations aim to influence
people’s material and moral well-being. By combining material
aid with proselytization, they embed their work in ideas
about transnational solidarity and the importance of enlarging
the umma, the global community of the faithful. By disseminating
a Salafi form of Islam, they link local believers to
other parts of the Muslim world. They thus nourish processes
of Islamization and Arabization. This paper explores the
interventions of these organizations in Chad, focusing on
the logic of their work and the effects of their involvement
in Chad, characterized by poverty and a strong politicization
of religion.
Journal article published in Africa Today, a publication of Indiana University Press. Volume 54, Number 3. You can purchase this journal from IU Press at: http://inscribe.iupress.org/loi/aft

In the current era of neoliberalism, there is not only an
expansion of Western influence in many parts of Africa, but
also increased influence from the Arab world. Transnational
Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are a vehicle
of this influence. In a context of structural adjustment, an
increased spread of Western consumption ideals through mass
communication, and a growing sense of the global context
in which one is living, these organizations aim to influence
people’s material and moral well-being. By combining material
aid with proselytization, they embed their work in ideas
about transnational solidarity and the importance of enlarging
the umma, the global community of the faithful. By disseminating
a Salafi form of Islam, they link local believers to
other parts of the Muslim world. They thus nourish processes
of Islamization and Arabization. This paper explores the
interventions of these organizations in Chad, focusing on
the logic of their work and the effects of their involvement
in Chad, characterized by poverty and a strong politicization
of religion.

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It is oten assumed thatglobalization and neoliber-alism mean Westernizationon a global scale but such aview ails to appreciate, orinstance, how the inuenceo the Arab world is alsoincreasing in Arica.
 
Transnational Islamic NGOs in Chad:Islamic Solidarity in theAge o Neoliberalism
Mk Kg
1
In the current era of neoliberalism, there is not only an
expansion o Western inuence in many parts o Arica, butalso increased inuence rom the Arab world. Transnational
Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are a vehicle
o this inuence. In a context o structural adjustment, an
 increased spread of Western consumption ideals through mass
communication, and a growing sense o the global context in which one is living, these organizations aim to inuence people’s material and moral well-being. By combining mate- rial aid with proselytization, they embed their work in ideasabout transnational solidarity and the importance o enlarg- ing the
umma,
the global community o the aithul. By dis-seminating a Salaf orm o Islam, they link local believers toother parts o the Muslim world. They thus nourish processes
of Islamization and Arabization. This paper explores the
 interventions of these organizations in Chad, focusing on
the logic o their work and the eects o their involvement in Chad, characterized by poverty and a strong politicizationo religion.
Introduction
It is oten assumed that globalization and neoliberalism mean Westerniza-tion on a global scale; however, such an assumption ails to appreciate how,or instance, the inuence o the Arab world is also increasing in Arica(Bennaa 2000; Hunwick 1997). Transnational Islamic nongovernmentalorganizations (NGOs) are a vehicle o such inuence. Their prolieration inArica has taken place not in spite o, or on the margins o, globalization andneoliberalism, but rather in tandem with them.
The relationship between the activities o Islamic NGOs and neoliber-alism has several dimensions. First, processes associated with neoliberalism,
 
 af     r  i      c a
 O d 5  (    3  )   
 s i    oi    s Mi    c  G  o s i    c  d 
such as democratization and political and economic liberalization, are easingthe intervention o nongovernmental organizations—Christian, secular, and
Islamic. In addition, neoliberalism and associated developments, such asthe increasing gap between rich and poor, and state withdrawal rom social
service provision, are making interventions o such NGOs even more impor-
tant. At the same time, the work o Islamic NGOs can be seen as a reactionto neoliberalism, since they sometimes contest the inuence o “the West”
and secularized and Westernized elites (Ghandour 2002; International Crisis
Group 2005), including capitalist rent-seeking behavior, individualism, andlack o solidarity.In spite o this, Islamic NGOs do not appear in the literature on NGOsand neoliberal policies in Arica. Studies that ocus on local NGOs and civilsociety abound (Harbeson, Rothchild, and Chazan 1994; Igoe and Kelsall2005; Marcussen 1996; Van der Walle, Ball, and Ramachandran 2003), otenheralding their capacity to produce development unlike corrupt states (Brat-ton 1989; Riddell and Robinson 1995; Wellard and Copestake 1993). Studiesocusing on transnational NGOs (Barrow and Jennings 2001; Callaghy 2001;Hearn 1998) tend to be more critical, pointing to the act that their involve-ment in local development may make weak states even weaker. Othersare critical about neoliberal policies in Arica, but stress the importance oNGOs in mitigating their eects (Larmer 2005). In none o these analysesdo Islamic NGOs fgure at all. Even the idea o “aith-based development”(Bornstein 2003; Hoer 2003), reerring to the importance o religious orga-nizations in bringing about development and which has recently becomeashionable, is usually seen as only relating to Christian initiatives. A pos-sible explanation or the inattention to Islamic NGOs is that the conceptso NGOs and “civil society” are part o the neoliberal project; they thereoretend to be flled in by categories that match the agenda o liberal democracy
(Bornstein 2003; Williams 1993)—and Western conceptions o development,
in which the very idea o Islamic NGOs appears almost unthinkable.Islamic NGOs are Islamic in the sense that Islam is an important
source o inspiration or them as organizations. Dierent Islamic NGOs may
have diering objectives and methods o operation, but all share a ounda-tion in the sacred textual sources o Islam, the Qur’an and the Sunna (the
authoritative practice o the Prophet Muhammad), and in the basic principles
o Islamic law and ethics, acting on their identity, agenda(s), and the mannerin which they obtain and distribute their resources.
2
The frst transnationalIslamic NGOs were established at the end o the 1970s and in the early
1980s, triggered by the war in Aghanistan and made fnancially viable by the
oil boom in Arab countries (Ghandour 2002). They based themselves on anIslamic understanding o solidarity that comprised three elements:
 ighatha
‘humanitarian relie’,
da’wa
‘the call or invitation to Islam’, and
jihad
in the
sense o armed support o the Islamic cause
3
(Benthall and Bellion-Jourdan2003; Ghandour 2002). In some contexts, such as Aghanistan and Bosnia,these elements have all been present in Islamic NGO activities; but overthe years, these NGOs have evolved, and a process o proessionalization

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