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Da’wa as Development: Kuwaiti Islamic Charity in Africa
Join ISITA for a talk by Mara Leichtman (anthropology, Michigan State University).
Direct Aid (formerly Africa Muslims Agency), Kuwait’s largest charity focused on Africa, carefully mediates between Gulf donor wishes, aid recipient needs, Kuwaiti and African government regulations, and various development priorities. Since the 1980s, Direct Aid has been centralizing religious and development work in complexes that comprise orphanages, schools, clinics, and mosques. The Islamic NGO therefore cannot be confined to narrow Western categorizations of Gulf Salafi da‘wa (proselytizing) institutions. Direct Aid’s approach is strategically grounded in comprehensiveness/“holism,” which serves to blur established categories of “charity,” “relief,” and “development” to become da‘wa-as-development. What is the cultural and religious impact of Gulf funding in Africa? How does Kuwait headquarters interact with African beneficiaries?
About the Speaker
Mara Leichtman is an associate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University and a founding faculty member of the Muslim Studies Program. Her research examines ties between Africa and the Middle East. She is the author of Shi’i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal (Indiana University Press, 2015).