Local Islam Gone Global: The Roots of Religious Militancy in Egypt and Its Transnational Transformation

James Toth
Sociology-Anthropology, Northeastern University

Date: February 8, 2005

Event Recap

On February 8th, the Boisi Center hosted Professor Jim Toth of Northeastern University who presented his paper, “Local Islam Gone Global: The Roots of Religious Militancy in Egypt and its Transnational Transformation.” Based on his fieldwork in southern Egypt, Toth described the social processes that facilitate the recruitment of relatively privileged university students into religious militant groups. He noted the positive relationship these students begin to develop with these groups who provide important social services such as medicine and tutoring in their rural hometowns. Because education is seen as the primary path to mobility in Egyptian society, the best and brightest of these students go on to university at large urban settings but feel socially alienated and displaced when they arrive. In this context, the religious militant groups offer a familiar home and gathering place for community and support. Fundamentalism offers a worldview that helps them respond to the strangeness that they experience in the contrast between the rural and urban setting.

Professor Toth is a professor of sociology and anthropology who has spent two years as a field office director for Save The Children and a number of years teaching at the University of Cairo and the University of Alexandria in Egypt. He has written on rural labor movements and Islamic religious movements in Egypt.