This Chapter highlights the importance of the subject matter of the book and situates the approach and contribution in the fields of International Relations and Political Psychology. It explores existing insights into the question of what ‘security threats’ are and how we can study everyday perceptions and experiences of them. In the IR and Security Studies literature the impact of the social constructivist turn, alongside the broadening and deepening of the security agenda, has meant that threats are now widely seen as produced through dialogue and interaction between states and non-state actors alike. What has tended to be overlooked, however, is the role of public opinion and everyday views, stories, and experiences in shaping securitizing moves and conditioning their ultimate success and/or failure. In turn, two main problems are identified with psychological and behavioural analyses of threat: first, that research tends to focus on discrete security threats, such as from terrorism, immigration, or the environment, limiting understanding of threats in general, and, second, the predominant focus on threats at the national or personal level at the expense of other levels at which threats may be experienced by citizens.
Chapter Three brings together insights from the focus group and survey data on the scope of threats and their origins. It debunks previous claims that there are few systematic influences on threats and goes further in clarifying the variation in the origins of different threats at different levels. It begins by summarising how participants in group discussions defined and understood the key concepts of ‘security’ and ‘threat’, and the vernacular methods of perception, measurement and categories of understanding of security. The Chapter shows a recurring scale of understanding consisting of four primary levels –personal, community, national, and global. From the survey data, it focuses initially on the breadth, or number, of security threats that individuals identified in total at the global, national, community, and personal levels. It also examines what those threats were. The second part of the Chapter analyses the specific threats of terrorism, immigration, the economy, and the environment. Among the findings is that mortality salience and authoritarian attitudes are strong predictors of the number of threats that individuals identify and on the identification of specific threats such as terrorism and immigration.
Chapter Four examines the consequences of identifying both more or less security threats, and also specific security threats such as from immigration, for political attitudes and behaviours. Using the survey data, it looks at the effects of the breadth of global, national, community and individual threats identified, and then with respect to specific security threats individuals identify from terrorism, immigration, the economy and the environment, on voting behaviour, attitudes towards immigrants and minorities, and policy preferences. Among the findings are that voting is unique in that only global and national considerations appear influential—thus the fact that it is often the focus of studies of, for example, economic threat is misleading. The Chapter also demonstrates and explains differences in the effects of threats such as terrorism and immigration from the economy and the environment.
This chapter was published as a guest editorial in Anthropology Today, 29: 4, August 2013, under the title "Foregrounding the Muslim tribal periphery". This book is arguably the finest of Professor Akbar Ahmed’s many publications, blending a literary and religious sensibility with political and historical analysis – a model for engaged anthropology. It can be read on two levels. It is a political indictment of the disproportionate victimization of Muslim tribespeople by remotely controlled military weapons – a policy which risks leading to a cycle of revenge. But the drone is also a metaphor for the current age of globalization, "something which comes from nowhere, destroys your life and goes away", while the prickly, tenacious "thistle" is an image that captures the essence of tribal societies (an image borrowed from Tolstoy’s posthumous novel Hadji Murad).
Adducing some insights from cultural anthropology, this Chapter compares and contrasts the histories of the Christian and the Islamic traditions of religious toleration, considering in particular the blurring of the distinction between "People of the Book" and "pagans" or "polytheists". It argues that each tradition has strengths and weaknesses if we consider them as contributions to a humanism acceptable to people today who subscribe to various religious beliefs or to none. Christendom was guilty historically of worse religious intolerance than Islam, yet it also engendered a humanistic respect for "primitive" belief systems. Islam institutionalized the concept of People of the Book, which gave a qualified recognition to its "confessional cousins", but it excluded "pagan" cultures unless they agreed to convert. Yet Islam was also capable of flexibility when a small Muslim court in India ruled over a vast non-Muslim population. An extended prefatory note reviews the progress of scholarship since the first publication of this text in Anthropology Today in 2005, and asks whether it is necessary to modify the suggestion that Muslim social scientists are inhibited from choosing to study non-monotheistic cultures. The conclusion reached ten years later is that there are at least some major exceptions.
This chapter considers the question of "cultural proximity", i.e. the proposition that a Faith Based Organization can have a privileged access to beneficiaries who share the same religious culture. It was based on a visit in 2007 to Aceh province in Indonesia, to observe the contribution of Islamic charities to reconstruction after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Special attention was given to the rebuilding of houses and schools, in which several other international NGOs experienced serious local difficulties. The conclusion was that a common religion can be an advantage, but not so much as to outweigh the importance of technical proficiency, especially in the heated political climate that prevailed during this period. As well as describing the mainly successful work of Islamic Relief Worldwide, Muslim Aid, and the Turkish Red Crescent, the chapter also notes that official international evaluations of the huge aid flows after the tsunami gave little credit to local organizations, notably the Muhammadiyah.
The Introduction summarizes the book’s content under the following headings. Since all the chapters have been previously published elsewhere, it also adds some complementary material to bring the book up to date on some important topics: Part One: Chapters 1 to 9: Islamic charities, Summary of the Chapters, Some recurrent themes, Faith Based Organizations and "cultural sensitivity", Islamic Relief Worldwide, The West Bank zakat committees, Banking problems, Towards a more complete description, Pakistan, Turkey, Domestic Islamic charity in the United Kingdom, A zakat movement?, Towards a more comparative approach, Part Two: Chapters 10 to 17: Islamic humanism
This chapter is the result of a visit in 2006 to observe the work of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) in the Timbuktu region of Northern Mali, whose struggling economy was at that time benefiting from a short period of peace in the "Tuareg rebellions". IRW’s local headquarters was based in the remote town of Gourma Rharous. The chapter describes its remarkable integration with the local community, and its commitment to staying there rather than moving on like some other aid agencies have done. Since Islam is deeply embedded in Malian life, this chapter provides a positive example of "cultural proximity", i.e. the proposition that a Faith Based Organization can have a privileged access to beneficiaries who share the same religious culture.
This book is the fruit of twenty years’ reflection on Islamic charities, both in practical terms and as a key to understand the crisis in contemporary Islam. On the one hand Islam is undervalued as a global moral and political force whose admirable qualities are exemplified in its strong tradition of charitable giving. On the other hand, it suffers from a crisis of authority that cannot be blamed entirely on the history of colonialism and stigmatization to which Muslims have undoubtedly been subjected – most recently, as a result of the "war on terror". The book consists of seventeen previously published chapters, with a general Introduction and new prefatory material for each chapter. The first nine chapters review the current situation of Islamic charities from many different viewpoints – theological, historical, diplomatic, legal, sociological and ethnographic – with first-hand data from the United States, Britain, Israel–Palestine, Mali and Indonesia. Chapters 10 to 17 expand the coverage to explore the potential for a twenty-first century "Islamic humanism" that would be devised by Muslims in the light of the human sciences and institutionalized throughout the Muslim world. This means addressing contentious topics such as religious toleration and the meaning of jihad. The intended readership includes academics and students at all levels, professionals concerned with aid and development, and all who have an interest in the future of Islam.