Towards a flexible social development- AKDN and the exclusionary development

By Ghazanfar Ali

Since the inception of AKDN in GB, it has successfully achieved its objectives of improving the quality of life among the communities in this part of the world.  What was peculiar about this success was its approach to use religion as a facilitator for development. Although the work of the AKDN is underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam – particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and human dignity – but AKDN does not restrict its work to a particular community, country or region. But historically the religious affiliation of its targeted beneficiaries with the organization rendered its operation successful.    Absolute faith on the religious leader makes community mobilization for the purpose of harnessing development objectives, easier for staff working in the organization.

Max Weber describes religious ethos in terms of suffering, chastisement, acknowledgement and reward for suffering, sacrifice, abstinence from normal desires, and behaviors. However, Ismailies differ in these ethoses. Instead of building its ethos on reward of suffering in the afterworld, Ismaili faith encourages its followers to mobilize them to overcome their sufferings. The foundation of Aga Khan Development Network was based on this principle. According to Max Weber, some decisive strata can excel in religiosity and position themselves as authority. In the case of Ismaili faith, the spiritual leader used his authority to improve the quality of life of his followers in terms of worldly human development. This led Ismailies to link human development to thier spiritual realm which other faiths in Islam, deem as profane.

Ismailies in development sector envisage development work to be a mode of maintaining link with the community. The community has seen development as a result of investment in the social capital. Considering the collectivist society, development in the region, took place by capitalizing on shared beliefs and trusts of community members. The formation of community groups as facilitator of development played an important role in the development of my region. This has resulted in a sense of ownership of the development among community members. Consequently, development of every individual is shared by everyone and reciprocity of this development to the community is expected. Hence, every individual is expected to reciprocate to community in the form of utilizing his/her education in the field of development after the completion of studies.

The complexity in culture results from variations in values, beliefs, and practices within a society that is assumed to share a homogeneous culture. The area has communities which are heterogeneous in their faiths. T he notion that mankind has progresses through a series of primitive stages of consciousness on its path to the present is well accepted among the Western philosophers. In case of GB, this consciousness was not a result of any modern ideology but took place in the form of religious obligation and practice. This consciousness resulted in a specific form of social organization in Ismailies. However, there is a possibility that and the consequent endogenous social conflict takes the form of developed and underdeveloped sects in the region.

The fact the development happened to target only the community identified with one sect has resulted in a Dahrendof’s Dichotomy of integration and conflict in my society. The quasi groups of other sects formed as a result of exclusion from the development agenda might soon transform into a challenging interest group with the aim of changing the unfair faith based social development that has taken place in the past three decades.  In the absence of any strong government law enforcing agency, the intensity of this conflict can take a violent form with consequences of total destruction of the development taken place so far.

Therefore, I believe that any development which excludes some groups based on any cultural references might have some short term success; however its sustainability will always be questioned. The development program needs to be designed in a way that all cultural aspects and groups should be incorporated. Development should always consider the human need theory to focus on the satisfaction of human needs so that social justice is ensured and no disgruntled groups are present to challenge the sustainability of this development.

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