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.

Jonathan Benthall

This review of Amelia Fauzia’s Faith and the State: A history of Islamic philanthropy in Indonesia (Brill, 2013) was originally published in the Asian Journal of Social Science 42: 1–2 (2014), 165–7. An angle for comparative historical research is proposed here. To what extent did Christian institutions affect the

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
Jonathan Benthall

This review of Michael Cook’s Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic case in comparative perspective (Princeton University Press, 2014) and Akeel Bilgrami’s Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment (Harvard University Press, 2014) was published in the Times Literary Supplement on 10 September 2014 under the heading ‘What

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
Understanding perceptions of Muslims in the news

This book considers how the coverage of Islam and Muslims in the press informs the thoughts and actions of non-Muslims. As media plays an important role in society, analysing its influence(s) on a person’s ideas and conceptualisations of people with another religious persuasion is important. News reports commonly feature stories discussing terrorism, violence, the lack of integration and compatibility, or other unwelcome or irrational behaviour by Muslims and Islam. Yet there is little research on how non-Muslims actually engage with, and are affected by, such reports. To address this gap, a content and discourse analysis of news stories was undertaken; verbal narratives or thoughts and actions of participants were then elicited using interviews and focus groups. The participant accounts point towards the normativity of news stories and their negotiated reception patterns. Individual orientations towards the media as an information source proved to be a significant factor behind the importance of news reports, with individually negotiated personal encounters with Muslims or Islam further affecting the meaning-making process. Participants negotiated media reports to fit their existing outlook on Islam and Muslims. This outlook was constructed through, and simultaneously supported by, news reports about Muslims and Islam. The findings suggest a co-dependency and co-productivity between news reports and participant responses. This research clearly shows that participant responses are (re)productions of local and personal contextuality, where the consequences of socially constructed depictions of Islam and Muslims engage rather than influence individual human thoughts and actions.

Jonathan Benthall

As noted in the Introduction, there is a small research literature on the question of ‘cultural proximity’. My own attempts to explore it – based on field visits to Mali and Aceh – have partly confirmed the thesis that Islamic NGOs can, on occasion, benefit from a privileged relationship with beneficiaries in Muslim countries

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
Jonathan Benthall

This personal account of the Swiss government funded mediation or conflict resolution project (2005–13) was first published in Gulf Charities and Islamic Philanthropy in the ‘Age of Terror’ and Beyond , edited by Robert Lacey and myself (Gerlach Press, 2014). Special attention is given here to the Gulf

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
Laurens de Rooij

been pointed out earlier, the media informs the primary understandings and interpretations of the issues it discusses. But if the media reports are the sole source of information on Islam and Muslims, it is not surprising that the meaning of Islam and Muslims among the public reflects what is portrayed in the media. This means that to the British public, the media seems to be successful at informing them. If media portrayals are as impactful as some would suggest, then that raises questions about the impact of education, politics, and other areas of public and

in Islam in British media discourses
Jonathan Benthall

Pennsylvania, 2014). My contribution appeared as the opening chapter in a volume published later that year, Understanding Islamic Charities , edited by Jon B. Alterman and Karin von Hippel. It is an overview which I still stand by in 2015 despite all the geopolitical changes since 2007. A theme that occurs elsewhere in this book is the unsatisfactory state of academic

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
The case of post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh
Jonathan Benthall

was extended in September 2014, amid sharp controversy. The main motivation for the article (first published in the online Journal of Humanitarian Assistance ), based on a visit in 2007, was to explore what special contributions Islamic charities can make in majority Muslim countries. As in the case of Mali, the finding was guardedly positive. An

in Islamic charities and Islamic humanism in troubled times
Laurens de Rooij

though Arab Islam, and Wahhabism in particular, is not the most prevalent form of Islam in Britain or globally, there exists in the media a pervasive presence of Arab Islam Muslims as they are portrayed in their struggle for dominance in the Middle East in order to ensure the hegemony of their version of Islam. In turn the descriptions of Islam that have become normative in the British press are reflective of power struggles in the larger Middle East, and Britain's involvement in them. This greatly reduces the agency and vibrancy of Muslims in Britain, as the Muslims

in Islam in British media discourses