Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How and Why to Support Religion Overseas

by Scott M. Thomas from Foreign Policy In Focus (US)

Any kind of foreign aid to promote democracy or development is a type of foreign intervention in another country. These kinds of interventions by their very nature are disruptive, and raise unavoidable questions about the values, power, stability, and social change in these societies, and do so in ways that also often lead to concerns over international security. The US, for example, has intervened in Mali as part of the Pentagon’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorist Initiative. This has encouraged young, reformist, Muslim intellectuals, often trained in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, to take leadership roles in new, Islamic, community-based organizations. They are intent on spreading what they considered to be a purer, less Malian, less indigenous form of Islam – hardly what the United States intended. A virtue-ethics approach must therefore link inter-faith relations and community development. It offers the only possible constructive, long-term way to handle the disruptions of social change caused by development.

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