Civil Society and Islamism in Iraq

A vibrant civil society sector in some Middle Eastern states has managed over the years to fill a role traditionally held by state institutions, that of providing social services such as health care, education and housing. Islamic civil society organizations have been especially successful in this role, and in doing so have acquired the reputation for honesty and integrity, gained public confidence and built political capital.

In Iraq, the weakness of civil society, the devastating consequences of decades of war and an international embargo have all lead to a deep fragmentation of the Iraqi social fabric. As such, the country has found itself ill-prepared to deal with the effects of the coalition's intervention and the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime which prohibited any autonomous forms of charitable associations, including the intervention of international NGOs. Both Shiite and Sunni Islamist forces were engulfed in this breach and merged the political and the social, while aid and donations subordinated their recipients making it difficult to distinguish political organizations, even paramilitary ones, from charitable associations. There is concern that political alignment along confessional lines is fuelling increased polarization. Understanding how Islamist movements work, with whom they work, and how much influence they exert is vital to understanding social and political change in Iraq.

This project will examine Iraqi Islamist civil society organizations in an attempt to determine what impact they have on public policy dialogue and formulation. It will analyze their capacity to mobilize public opinion and popular support in favour of their political agendas. The project will study Islamist organizations' attitudes towards governance and citizenship, and consider their potential to inform public and political discourse on these issues.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Monday, March 10, 2008

End Date

Thursday, December 31, 2009


18 months

IDRC Officer

Ahmimed, Charaf

Total funding

CA$ 138,350


Morocco, North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Iraq


Foundations for Innovation

Project Leader

Hosham Dawod


Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme

Institution Country