POLITICAL ISLAM IN CENTRAL ASIA: RADICAL ISLAMISTS OR

SUPPRESSED MUSLIMS?

Slavomir Horak

In: Political Power contra Religious Authority in Asia (Slobodnik, M. - Kovacs, A., eds.) Chronos, Bratislava, 2006, p. 85-107, ISBN 80-89027-18-0.

 

SUMMARY

Islam in post-Soviet Central Asia in the 1990s went through a process of rediscovering itself. Despite the mass secularization of the society during the Soviet period, Islam survived both on the official level, loyal to communism and unofficially (hujras). The new leaders of the Central Asian countries, mostly former Communist Party figures, had to count with Islamic revival in the region, especially among traditionally more Islamised societies in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Islam has become the most important factor in their politics. In Tajikistan, the only Islamic party was able to work legally, but only as a result of civil war (nevertheless, the Tajik regime has shifted it to the margin of the political spectrum). In Uzbekistan, the secular regime of Islom Karimov has been suppressing any attempt to create some kind of Islamic opposition. On the other hand, the breakdown in the economic and social sphere in the country (as well as in the region) caused the potential attraction to Islam as an alternative ideology to the existing systems. The ideas of Islam are backed up by several Islamic organizations and movements, often supported by radical donors abroad. Though the combination of current mostly unsuccessful regimes and activities of radical Islamists probably would not result in “green revolution”, their destabilization potential remains one of the most important security threats in the region.