Academic journal article Military Review

JIHAD, the Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia

Academic journal article Military Review

JIHAD, the Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia

Article excerpt

JIHAD, The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 272 pages, 2002, $24.00.

Ahmed Rashid's books are always good references of counterterrorism and Islamic militancy for Near East Asia experts. Jihad, The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia delves into religious radicalism in the former Soviet Central Asian Republics.

With the Soviet Union's collapse came ncwfound freedoms in the former republics of Uzbekistan, Kyrgizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Ironically, these republics fought Gorbachev-era reforms and feared that disintegration of the Soviet Union meant economic ruin and political legitimacy erosion for the loyal apparatchiks who ruled the region for Moscow. Rashid discusses the vacuum left behind after the Soviet Union's fall, which included not only economic, but also the rediscovery of social and religious values that had been suppressed under communism.

Before Soviet domination, Central Asia Muslims followed a more liberal form of Sufi Islam. The Turkmen Basmachis challenged Soviet authority and led Joseph Stalin to redraw the map of Central Asia to make this rebellion more manageable. The Basmachis' form of Islam was driven underground. Many did not understand Arabic and knew little of Islam, yet they were thirsty for information about their identity. Saudi Wahabis filled this religious void and began to erode the more tribal and liberal Sufi interpretations. In its place came the Wahabi-brand of strict observance and intolerance that spawned religious militancy in the region.

Several former communist leaders used symbolism, religion, and outright dictatorial tactics to remain in power. …

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