Islamic Civil Society Organizations as Actors of Change in Egypt and Jordan

Bezen Balamir Coskun
2.085 1.586


Many people in MENA region perceive formal politics as illegitimate, corrupt and authoritarian. Thus, when searching for agents of change and reform, one has to look beyond the formal politics. In this vein, in the region there has been an increasing interest in civil society. Generally, academic interest as well as institutional interest tends to focus on secular organizations and overlooks religiously-based ones. Given the fact that, particularly in Muslim states of the region, Islamic civil society organizations make up a large part of civil society. Many Muslim social welfare organizations in the region engaged in activities such as education, health care and financial assistance to the poor. For example, in the cases of Egypt, Jordan and Turkey new variety of Muslim organizations has emerged to engage in voluntary social welfare activities, but in other ways than traditional welfare organizations. Besides providing traditional charitable services, they offer health and environment awareness campaigns and vocational training programs. In short, they assign Islam an important role without applying the language of political Islam. Instead, they view Islam as instrumental in helping the individual to become an active and useful citizen. In this regard, this article seeks answers to the question of whether these organisations can be considered potential agents of change or rather as preservers of the status quo. Do they employ Islam as a means of control or empowerment


informal politics, Egypt, Jordan, Islamic civil society organizations

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