Islamism Reaches Central Asia

Authored by: Shahram Akbarzadeh

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415484732
eBook ISBN: 9780203154144
Adobe ISBN: 9781136577239


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Islamism in Central Asia is a new phenomenon. For 70 years the region was part of the Soviet Union, cut off from the Muslim world. That experience had major ramifications for the development of Islam in society and politics. Central Asia’s disconnection from the Muslim world protected it from the radical trajectory that has now become widely documented in the Middle East. The Arab–Israeli wars, which galvanized Muslim opinion in the Middle East and gave force to the politicization of Islam, did not register in Central Asia. This separation, and Soviet efforts to remove all traits of Islam from public life, contributed to the evolution of Islam as an apolitical force. Islam was central to the cultural and communal life of Central Asians but had next to no presence in the public life of the region except in controlled settings when the Soviet authorities deemed it useful to project an image of tolerance to the Middle East. As a consequence, there was little potential for Islam to become a political ideology under Soviet rule.

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