The discussion in the first part of the article discusses the reinforced vigor in the Muslims living in Central Asia. As stated in the first line itself, upon being asked if they are Muslims the reply was ‘Al-hamdulillah I am’. This clearly shows respect and admiration that Muslims have towards Islam in the Central Asia.
Furthermore the article discusses how Muslims in Central Asia have managed retain their identity and have created a unique culture. Even though Islam prevails in Central Asia right from the 8th Century, the religion has accepted modernism in many aspects. No longer are women treated as sub-ordinates, and the strict outlook towards alcohol has been replaced by a less stern stance. But it is also important to note that the change in outlook might also have been due to the long ruling of the atheist Soviet Union until 1991, which discouraged all practices of religion.
Even though Central Asia has embraced Islam as a religion, the political heads use it more as a tool to dictate over the population. One of the greatest examples would be of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, who has made it obligatory to recite his published book Rukhnama everywhere, in Madrasa (religious schools), Masjid (mosque) etc. The quotations are written in Masjid alongside that of Qur’an. Such repressive governing is creating instability instead of promoting Islam. As said by Turkmen sociologist Farkhad Iliassov of the Moscow-based analytical center Vlast, ‘Islam is growing into a potent political force in Central Asia’
As discussed in the earlier part, government is trying to gain full control, religious and political, over Central Asia by prohibiting Radical Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. This Radical group has gained deep roots within Uzbekistan and other Central Asian areas. The main aim of this group is to convey the message of Islam and re-establish the Islamic Caliphate, like in the earlier times of Prophet Muhammad. But the governments of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan have completely banned this outfit and have imprisoned supporters as well as workers of this outfit. Moreover, the group has been accused of bombings and other unrest in Tashkent. Hizb ut-Tahrir has been also accused of having link to terror out fits such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which the group fervently denies.
This part mainly focuses on the religious schools of Islam known as Madrasah. Madrasahs have been long depicted in pictures and paintings where a Movlavi (Isalmic scholar or teacher) teaches a group of children from the ‘Hadith’ and other religious textbooks. Madrasah curriculums are usually focused on teaching Islamic laws and logic, literature as well as interpretation of Qur’an. But recently some Central Asian states are encouraging the inclusion of mathematical and scientific studies in the curriculum. Gradually the focus has shifted from other streams and now Madrasah’s mainly focus on theology. Madrasah maybe privately funded or could be supported by the government. Graduates passing from Madrasah become Imams, judges or advocates of law like in Afghanistan or may become Imams in mosques like in Uzbekistan.
There has been a gradual decline in Madrasah being not just religious but an overall development centre, instead have now become centers for extremist studies.
The 4 part series arises many questions such as;
1. If Muslims in Central Asia are supporting modernization, are women here equally treated?
2. The forceful inclusion of Rukhnama by the president of Turkmen in every aspects of Islam shows the tyranny of this state, why hasn’t the Arab uprising had its effect in Central Asia? Why isn’t it able to acquire freedom from such constraints?
3. Why Madrasah’s which were educational institutes and not mere religious institutes, become extremist in nature? Who is responsible for the shift in attitude?
4. Would invasion from western world help Central Asia to gain better status and freedom or will it erase the core of Islam?
1. Martha Brill Olcott. “ Carnegei Endowment for international peace”. The roots of radical Islam in central Asia , 3 January 2010. Web. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/olcottroots.pdf
2. The New York Times, Islam in Central Asia. 16 August 2001. Web. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/16/opinion/islam-in-central-asia.html
3. Dushanbe, Tashkent. “The Economist”, Religion, politics and moderation 15 May 2003. Web. http://www.economist.com/node/1787408
4. Choi Han-Woo. “International Journal of Central Asian Studies”. Political Islam in Central Asia. 7 April 1998. Web. http://www.iacd.or.kr/pdf/journal/03/3-06.pdf