The Lure of Islamism in Central Asia
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Islam in Central Asia is Janus-faced: one side is risk averse and promotes respect for authority, while the other challenges the status quo and those in power. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union and emergence of five independent states, the political elite in the region has engaged in an elaborate campaign to promote a conformist version of Islam and warn against the dangers of radical religious ideologies. For the most part, Central Asian governments have been successful in keeping their respective countries free of major Islamic political agitation. Despite periods of upheaval (most notably the civil war in Tajikistan, periodic clashes in the restive Ferghana valley, and ethnic and political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan), the connection between Islam and rebellion has been largely foreign to Central Asians. The absence of wide appeal for radical Islamic ideas today, however, does not necessary mean that Central Asian Muslims are immune to such interpretations. The question that needs to be asked relates to resilience. Are Central Asians able to discern the flaws in radical Islam and resist its utopian lure?
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