Trouble in Islamic Nationbuildingby Kevin Newton on 05/09/13
Somalia. Iraq. Afghanistan.
The list goes on of Muslim-majority countries whose attempts at developing firm national institutions have run aground despite following practices established by the West. Whole branches of the United Nations have been dedicated to nation building in these places, only to have continued chaos.
What went wrong?
While not exclusively an explanation, the role of embracing local customs must be considered, both with regards to political and social restructuring. Perhaps the political question is the easiest to assess. After all, much of the actual local governing across the Islamic world happens not in provincial offices, but in the homes of local religious and tribal authorities. Practices that embrace their influence have only been half-hearted, or have placed many restrictions on just what these rulings can accomplish.
But its not only a political issue. Civil society also requires rebuilding after times of conflict. And this is where a real understanding of Islamic cultural norms can be of great use. Across the developing Islamic world, Western observers commentate on the presence of religious schools, often viewing them as contradictory to development goals. Further, locked out of delibrative processes held so dear by Islamic scholars, they turn insular, often approaching radicalization. A simple solution would be to better embrace these madrassas, and make sure that their funding is local and stable, not foreign with an added agenda. Give the citizens of a region something to feel prideful about, namely their children's futures, and watch other levels of civil involvement skyrocket.