Friday, March 18, 2022

Political Leadership Transitions May Re-Invigorate Islamist Movements in Central Asia, Malashenko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 13 – Islamism in Central Asia today is “weaker than ever before,” Aleksey Malashenko says; but it has not disappeared and may reemerge as a force either because of the failure of governments there to fight corruption and address social problems or because most Central Asian states are entering into an era of generational change in their leaderships.

            The IMEMO specialist on Islam says that Islamist movements in Central Asia have been in retreat not only because of their inability to find charismatic leaders but also because Islamism has been failing abroad and no longer offers models that most Central Asians find attractive (

            But as developments in Turkey show, even countries that choose “Muslim secularism” may be drawn toward Islamism at various points in their histories, Malashenko continues. And that means that Islamism, however weak it appears at any particular time in any particular Muslim majority country, can make a comeback.

            There are three reasons for this: First, by tradition, Muslims have never accepted a division between religion and politics. After all, “Mohammed was a politician.” Second, “Islam is not only a religion of the powers; it is a religion of social protest.” And third, Islamism provides an alternative model of a perfect state that become attractive when existing states aren’t.

            What that means, of course, is that Islamism is always in a position to make a comeback if the authorities in a Muslim country make mistakes. If it does so in Central Asia, Malashenko says, the Central Asian governments will have no one to blame but themselves. The fault will not lie in some much-ballyhooed interference from abroad be in from Afghanistan or elsewhere.


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