Documents menu
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 95 02:34:24 EST
From: Asgeir Baldursson <BLLW@MUSICB.MCGILL.CA>
Subject: Islamism (Uzbekistan)

Islamism (Uzbekistan)

By Asgeir Baldursson, 13 January 1995

For the past 6 years I have been following from afar (first from Reykjavik, and now from Montreal) developements in Central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan. The case of Islamism in that part of the muslim world, is very interesting, as it differs in a significant way from other regions.

History plays a very prominent role (even more so than elsewhere in the east). The recent Islamic Revival in Uzbekistan, owes much to the Jadid Movement of the early 20th Century. It began as a search for cultural identity in the late 70s. A generation which had grown up within the soviet system needed to learn more about its traditional past than official education could provide. Groups of them started to study the religion under the guidance of old people, who were born before soviet days.

Particularly, the case of Rakhmatullah (1950-1981) is interesting. Studying under Hakim Qari (b. late 1890s) in Marghilan, Jadid textbooks, and Quranic readings. He soon came to odds with his master, wishing to actively pursue the reestablishment of an Islamic way of life. He argued that the oldtimers collaborated with the alien system by not confronting it.

Rakhmatullah (and his followers) opened clandestine schools and printing houses, in the tradition of the Jadid reformers. There they taught Islam, and Islamist ideas, of Rakhmatullah, Abu-l-'Ala' Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qubt, etc. The students then became teachers for others. In this fashion the movement spread clandestinely, until it erupted to the scene following glasnost. Rakmatullah died in a car accident in 1981 (there are some allegations of foul play, but they remain unconfirmed).

The movement, has so far mostly been concerned with education and social work. Its social base has been strengthening and beginning now in the 90s the movement is stepping on the political scene. As of now they have not been employing any political violence, although their efforts have been subject to the usual intimidation by the political authorities. Unless the are coopted, or somehow given access to the political game, that situation is bound to change in the next 5 to 10 years.

Asgeir Baldursson,

Short bibliography: