Engaging Muslim NGOs in Violence Prevention

Gapping the Bridge: Reconsidering the Role of Muslim Civil Society in Conflict Zones

This British Council project wiGappingll explore this paradoxical role of religion in international affairs by examining the role of development-focused Muslim NGOs operating in transitioning and conflict zones. These Muslim aid and development networks sit at the nexus of a number of key elements related to Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and post-conflict stabilization in the short, medium and long term. Their efforts in social infrastructure and economic development have long been recognized and supported by a range of international governance bodies. However, because Muslim NGOs are also often first-responders in crisis zones, they double as gatekeepers for transnational Muslim networks seeking to act in these areas. Conversations with experts and practitioners along with field research on the Turkish-Syrian border has led to the conclusion that Muslim NGOs should be engaged as key players in a comprehensive post- conflict stabilization strategy that coordinates across the security, development and communication sectors. The project will address two central questions: Can Muslim NGOs and faith-based civil society networks provide solutions to the shared global challenges of social conflict and political violence in the MENA region? And, what role do digital communications technologies play in the process? Building upon two-years of successful multi-institutional research and programming collaboration, we aim to organize two dialogue-based workshops to examine: (1) what are the demonstrable accomplishments of Muslim NGOs in conflict zones and transitioning states, and how can those models scale up to help address today’s conflicts?; and (2) What challenges exist to engaging with the Muslim NGO sector in conflict zones, and how have those challenges been dealt with (both effectively and unsuccessfully) in the past.

PI and Point of Contact: Shawn Powers (smp@gsu.edu)
CO-PI: Abbas Barzegar (abarzegar@gsu.edu)