Islam and Politics in Tajikistan

At a recent conference in Dushanbe on the role of Islam in Central Asia, differences of opinion were less about whether Tajikistan was becoming more devout than what form this would take, and what the implications would be.

Historian Kamol Abdullaev said the process of Islamicisation – in the sense of a general return to religious values – was unstoppable. He even speculated that an Iranian-style theological state might one day appear in the region, adding that he was “far from optimistic” that its leaders would espouse moderate views.

Marat Mamadshoev, chief editor of the Asia-Plus newspaper, said it was important to avoid hysterical reactions or myth-making about the rise of Islam,

Political analyst Abdullo Rahnamo called for a careful distinction to be made between a faith revival and radicalisation.

Part of the problem, he said, was that Central Asian governments have politicised the way they handle religious matters, so that everything – even questions like whether men should wear a beard – start to be judged for their political significance. A rising number of bearded men begins to be seen as a political force.

The audio programme, in Russian, went out on national radio stations in Tajikistan, as part of IWPR project work funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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