Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Central Asian Countries Generally Ignoring Impact of Soft Power of Islamist Groups, Kuramayev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 6 – Central Asian countries respond quickly to any acts of terrorism on their territories, but they aren’t responding at all to the growing strength of the soft power of Islamist groups there, something that means that terrorist attacks and even the seizure of power by Islamists will become more likely in the future, according to Baikalam Kuramayev.

            The former Kyrgyz diplomat and current Bishkek foreign policy analyst says that across the region, people talk about the soft power of Russia and Western countries; but they say nothing about the far more powerful role of that kind of power by Islamist groups (stanradar.com/news/full/51869-v-tsentralnoj-azii-nedootsenivajut-mjagkuju-silu-religioznyh-radikalov.html).

            As a result, they fail to see that the increasing tendency of women to wear the hijab and men to wear beards is a harbinger of things to come, including the possibility of an Islamist  revolution in one or more of the countries in the region. And when anyone does talk about this, they speak about Arabization rather than Pakistanization, which is more common.

            Kuramayev points to three factors which help the Islamists to spread their influence: the increasing number of mosques and the shift by religious groups from face to face activities to the Internet, the return of women and children from Syria and Iraq who are sleepers for the future, and the failure of the countries to ban all Islamist groups.

            He points to his native Kyrgyzstan as a case in point. There, there are now more mosques than schools, the Internet is active, the government hasn’t filtered the returning women and children, and it hasn’t banned the Tablig Jamaat. Indeed, some in Bishkek see that group as a defender against still more radical groups.

            The result of all this, Kuramayev says, is likely to be the spread of terrorism in the near term and the rise of new Islamist states shortly thereafter.


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