Mara A. Leichtman F'20

Mara A. Leichtman
Associate Professor
Anthropology
Michigan State University

Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs 2020
Associate Professor
Anthropology
Michigan State University
Humanitarian Islam: Transnational Religion and Kuwaiti Development Projects in Africa

Arab Gulf states are surpassing Western development agencies in providing assistance to African countries. This project analyzes individual, civil society, and state giving in Kuwait through Islamic ethical frameworks as motivations for charity. Case studies of transregional connections with Senegal and Tanzania assess the cultural and religious impact of Gulf funding in Africa while complicating the “giver/receiver” binary. Through exploring Sunni and Shi‘i organizations in Africa, "Humanitarian Islam" unpacks the politics of Kuwaiti giving by situating the aid apparatus within national, international, historical and contemporary contexts. Media coverage has depicted Africa as another sphere for the Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry in disseminating Sunni-Shi‘i sectarianism. Based on this research, public writing for media and policy outlets will demonstrate that Iran is not the only Shi‘i player in Africa and that Africans are not simply pawns in Gulf power politics.