For Humanity or for the Umma?

Ideologies of Aid in International Muslim NGOs

Please note: This page refers to an event that has already taken place.

Time: Tuesday, 12 November 2013 08:15-10:00
Place: PRIO, Hausmanns gate 7, Oslo

​International Muslim NGOs are increasingly visible actors in the field of aid provision. Despite this, they have received sparse scholarly attention and little is known about their aid work, motives and rationales. Tracing the historical trajectories of international Muslim aid, Marie Juul Petersen (Danish Institute for Human Rights) will explore the ways in which conceptions of Muslim aid have changed over time. International Muslim NGOs are increasingly visible actors in the field of aid provision. Despite this, they have received sparse scholarly attention and little is known about their aid work, motives and rationales. Tracing the historical trajectories of international Muslim aid, Marie Juul Petersen (Danish Institute for Human Rights) will explore the ways in which conceptions of Muslim aid have changed over time.

Marie Juul Petersen argues that the designations of so-called ‘terrorist’ Muslim NGOs and the parallel interest in cooperation with ‘moderate’ Muslim NGOs in the wake of 9/11 present a defining moment in the history of these organisations, shaping their conceptions of aid in important ways. More specifically, she argues that since 9/11, international Muslim NGOs have moved from a conception of aid that was driven by a wish to help fellow Muslims in the global umma, based on principles of justice and solidarity and informed by an all-encompassing religiosity, to an aid aimed at reaching a more abstract humanity, based on principles of neutrality and universalism and relying on a quasi-secular, instrumentalised understanding of religion.

While this may be in alignment with mainstream aid conceptions, facilitating cooperation with Western donors, however, it also carries potential problems for the NGOs. First, they risk loosing credibility among Muslim donors, expecting them to promote orthodox Islamic traditions of charity. Second, they may disappoint recipients, expecting them to meet not only their material but also spiritual needs.

Marie Juul Petersen is a researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. She holds a PhD from the Institute for Regional and Cross-Cultural Studies at University of Copenhagen. Her research interests include Islam, international organisations, human rights, development and humanitarian aid, and she has written extensively on these topics, including For Humanity or for the Umma? Aid and Islam in International Muslim NGOs (Hurst & Co., forthcoming), "Trajectories of Transnational Muslim NGOs" (Development in Practice, 2013), and "Instrumental, Narrow, Normative? Reviewing Recent Literature on Religion and Development" (Third World Quarterly, 2011, with Ben Jones). She has also written a number of reports and policy papers, including Islamic or Universal Human Rights? The OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (Danish Institute for International Studies, 2012) and Islam and Civil Society. Case studies from Jordan and Egypt (Danish Institute for International Studies, 2007, with Sara Lei Sparre).

Ayan Bashir, Rahma Islamic Relief Fund and Ivar Evensmo, Norwegian Agency for International Development (NORAD) will act as discussants, and there will be time for questions, comments and discussion with the audience.

Program
08.15   Doors open and breakfast is served
08.30   Welcome by Kaja Borchgrevink, PRIO
08.35   Presentation by Marie Juul Petersen, DIHR
09.05   Comments by Ayan Bashir, Rahma
09.15   Comments by Ivar Evensmo, NORAD  
09.25   Questions, comments and discussion
10.00   End of seminar