Saturday, October 22, 2016

Central Asia Not Yet Part of Muslim World, Imanaliyev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 22 -- “Despite the fact that Central Asia is considered part of the Islamic world, it has not yet become such,” according to Muratbek Imanaliyev, a Kyrgyz official who served as secretary general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization between 2010 and 2012, in a paper prepared for the Valdai Club.

            Instead, he argues, the region “remains a fragment of the post-Soviet space and is separated from the rest of the world, including the Islamic one, by powerful values inherited from ‘the Soviet civilizational universe’ including … even certain elements of its worldview” (

            The challenges and threats, “connected above all with religious extremism, terrorism and other manifestations of trans-border crime, despite the fact that the countries of Central Asia are mostly populated by Muslims are not distinguished from those in Europe,” he says, and “the frequency and scale of extremist phenomena are an order lower than in many other countries.”

             Many people over the years have suggested that the Fergana Valley is on the verge of an explosion, “but 25 years have passed, and the valley lives in a peaceful and stable way. Yes, there were conflicts and terrorist actions but not more often or more horrific than in other parts of the planet.”

            “At the same time,” the Kyrgyz politician says, leaders in Central Asia are very well aware of the dangers and threats within the region as a result of “the growing geopolitical conflicts of the great powers, the struggle for resources, terrorism and religious extremism.” And they wonder about their potential role in promoting geopolitical cooperation and mediation.

            But the Central Asian leaders can also see that in their region, “the influence of the strong of this world has been and remains fragmentary.” The West half-heartedly promoted democracy, and others sometimes paid attention and sometimes didn’t. But neither could afford to ignore the region entirely.

            “Central Asia has always played the role of an intra-continental connecting corridor,” and elites there, sometime with the help of outsiders and sometimes on their own, “are trying to revive and reconstruct these integrative traditions” and to build security both by abjuring nuclear ambitions and seeking cooperation.

            According to Imanaliyev, “one should not say that the necessary efforts are not being undertaken, but the impression has been created that they are leading to results directly opposite to the goals proclaimed.  There needs to be a different conception of dialogue” if things are to move forward.

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