This paper is the first output from research into faith-based service providers and their relationships with the state. It documents that, despite a shared emphasis on charity and 'helping the other' within the dominant religions in South Asia, the practical manifestation of this ethic has taken a distinct form in each religious tradition. The consequence is a complex diversity of faith-based organisations (FBOs) in South Asia. Developing an historical account of the rise of FBOs in South Asia, this paper documents the numerous ways in which the state can affect the working of an FBO. The paper develops these arguments with a focus on changes in the working of FBOs in South Asia in response to colonial rule. The study shows that FBOs that are involved in religious education are more likely than others to attract state attention, as they exert power in the public sphere by promoting a specific vision of the world. In this context, the review notes that madrasas are one form of FBO in South Asia that has attracted state-led reform across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It also shows that all religious political parties in South Asia maintain a heavy emphasis on welfare work and often establish independent FBOs as part of their party networks. The madrasas and the welfare wings of the religious political parties are thus identified as two forms of FBO in South Asia that provide interesting opportunities to study the relationships between states and religious groups in the three countries.
Working Paper No.12, Religions and Development Research Programme, University of Birmingham, UK, 46 pp.