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Authors: Atalay, Zeynep
Advisors: Korzeniewicz, Roberto Patricio
Department/Program: Sociology
Type: Dissertation
Sponsors: Digital Repository at the University of Maryland
University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
Subjects: Sociology
Political Science
Keywords: Constructivism
Faith-Based Organizations
NGO Coalitions
Political Islam
Social Movements
Transnational Civil Society
Issue Date: 2012
Abstract: This dissertation examines the instrumental benefits of civil society discourse for Muslim civil society organizations and their pursuit of conservative agendas. Since early 1990, informal religious communities in the Muslim world have been reestablishing themselves as formal NGOs at unprecedented rates. Additionally, they are joining forces and forming transnational coalitions. The constituents' goals of religious support and solidarity remain unchanged in terms of their commitment to conservative and religious norms. By contrast, existing transnational civil society literature is dominated with assumptions of liberal and secular agendas. Yet, despite the seemingly inherent contradiction, the members of these faith-based organizations and coalitions persistently position themselves within the sphere of civil society. This dissertation problematizes this conflict and asks: Why are the previously informal Islamist networks adopting the discourse of civil society, transforming into formal NGOs, and establishing transnational coalitions? In this study, I examine one of the largest Muslim NGO coalitions to date - the Union of the NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW). With its 193 member NGOs from 46 countries, the UNIW aims to consolidate faith-based Muslim NGOs and to coordinate member actions for the welfare of Muslim communities around the world. Based on fieldwork conducted in Turkey, Germany, the U.S., Malaysia and Cambodia, I employ qualitative and ethnographic methods and draw on diverse sources of data including in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis. My findings suggest that framing this transnational religious solidarity project as a transnational civil society network provides Islamist groups additional channels of power. Specifically, previously informal communities find opportunities to increase their social capital through membership in a transnational coalition, engage in mutually profitable relationships with states, and claim legitimacy as global political actors. The empirical findings of the dissertation challenge several assumptions of the constructivist and sociological institutionalist literature. These perspectives' contributions to the study of transnational advocacy networks, international NGOs, and transnational NGO coalitions have prioritized ideational and normative concerns over instrumental and interest-based motivations in transnational non-state actor politics. In this dissertation I argue that ideational motivations of transnational non-state actors regularly intersect with instrumental concerns. By demonstrating the instrumental motivations of norm-oriented networks, this dissertation moves beyond the instrumental/ideational divide that permeates the literature on transnational non-state actors.
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UMD Theses and Dissertations

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