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268 Kaag Transnational Islamic NGOs neoliberalism

268 Kaag Transnational Islamic NGOs neoliberalism

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Published by Gayle Amul

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Published by: Gayle Amul on Jul 21, 2008
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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
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
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.
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,
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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.
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:
‘humanitarian relie’,
‘the call or invitation to Islam’, and
in the
sense o armed support o the Islamic cause
(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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