Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Islam after Communism

Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 260
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Islam after Communism
    Book Description:

    How do Muslims relate to Islam in societies that experienced seventy years of Soviet rule? How did the utopian Bolshevik project of remaking the world by extirpating religion from it affect Central Asia? Adeeb Khalid combines insights from the study of both Islam and Soviet history to answer these questions. Arguing that the sustained Soviet assault on Islam destroyed patterns of Islamic learning and thoroughly de-Islamized public life, Khalid demonstrates that Islam became synonymous with tradition and was subordinated to powerful ethnonational identities that crystallized during the Soviet period. He shows how this legacy endures today and how, for the vast majority of the population, a return to Islam means the recovery of traditions destroyed under Communism.Islam after Communismreasons that the fear of a rampant radical Islam that dominates both Western thought and many of Central Asia's governments should be tempered with an understanding of the politics of antiterrorism, which allows governments to justify their own authoritarian policies by casting all opposition as extremist. Placing the Central Asian experience in the broad comparative perspective of the history of modern Islam, Khalid argues against essentialist views of Islam and Muslims and provides a nuanced and well-informed discussion of the forces at work in this crucial region.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95786-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. [Maps]
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Waiting in line at a cafeteria in Tashkent one day in 1991, in the last months of the Soviet era, I fell into conversation with two men behind me. They were pleased to meet someone from the outside world, to which access had been so difficult until then, but they were especially delighted by the fact that their interlocutor was Muslim. My turn in line eventually came, and I sat down in a corner to eat. A few minutes later, my new acquaintances joined me unbidden at my table, armed with a bottle of vodka, and proceeded to propose a...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Islam in Central Asia
    (pp. 19-33)

    In 1805, Eltüzer Khan, the reigning khan of Khwarazm, the oasis principality at the mouth of the Amu Darya, commissioned a history of his dynasty that would “place our august genealogy on a throne in the divan [chancery] of words and to set the names of our glorious ancestors into the seal of history.” The resulting work was undertaken by a court historian by the name of Sher Muhammad Mirab Munis, and continued after his death by his nephew Muhammad Riza Agahi, who carried its account down to 1828. The work bore the appropriately grandiose title ofFirdavs ul-iqbâl(The...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Empire and the Challenge of Modernity
    (pp. 34-49)

    On June 15, 1865, Russian troops under the command of General M. G. Cherniaev broke through the city walls of Tashkent. After two days of resistance, notables of the town sued for peace and accepted Russian overlordship. The conquest of Tashkent, a major entrepôt for crossregional trade and the third largest city in Transoxiana, was a significant landmark in the history of Central Asia. The Russians had been encroaching southward for more than a century and a half, and had, slowly but surely, extended their control over what is now Kazakhstan over the course of the nineteenth century. Tashkent, however,...

  9. CHAPTER 3 The Soviet Assault on Islam
    (pp. 50-83)

    On February 23, 1917, in the middle of the third winter of a brutal war, riots broke out in Russia’s capital, Petrograd. It was international women’s day, a major holiday celebrated by socialist parties all over Europe, and women workers poured into the streets to protest the shortage of bread. They were joined by many men who were already on strike. Banners demanding bread were quickly joined by red flags and inscriptions that read, “Down with Autocracy.” The empress Alexandra thought it all of little consequence: “Its ahooliganmovement,” she wrote to her husband then away at field headquarters,...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Islam as National Heritage
    (pp. 84-115)

    The story of the Soviet period of Central Asian history is only half told if we stop with the destruction and trauma of the 1920s and 1930s. The destruction of the early Soviet period had lasting consequences, but it was in the relative stability of the last thirty years of Soviet rule that contemporary Central Asian societies took shape. What was the role of Islam in this period?

    Plentiful evidence exists that the observance of Islamic ritual remained widespread and that it took place in the bosom of Soviet institutions. In 1961, for example, the Communist Party of Uzbekistan expelled...

  11. CHAPTER 5 The Revival of Islam
    (pp. 116-139)

    In 1984, during the American-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, the CIA and its Pakistani counterparts came up with a plan. Instead of merely fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, they would carry the battle to their own turf. There were many Muslims in Soviet Central Asia who, according to CIA’s director, William Casey, “could do a lot of damage to the Soviet Union.” To this end, the CIA had the Qur’an translated into Uzbek and smuggled into Soviet territory.¹ Reading the Qur’an in their own language would, it was believed, be enough to stir the Muslims up and make them rebel against...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Islam in Opposition
    (pp. 140-167)

    In November 1991, as Central Asia lurched toward independence, Islam Karimov, the recently proclaimed president of Uzbekistan, paid a visit to the city of Namangan in the Ferghana Valley to meet local Party and government officials. Various informal groups, many of them religious, had been told that their representatives would also be able to meet Karimov and present their ideas to him. In the event, however, Karimov refused to meet them and flew back to Tashkent. As news of this snub spread through the town, a group called Adolat (Justice) organized a mass rally to demand that Karimov return to...

  13. CHAPTER 7 The Politics of Antiterrorism
    (pp. 168-191)

    In the National Museum of the History of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, a blown-up photograph of the World Trade Center in flames looms large over displays celebrating national achievements since independence. This display has the title “Uzbekistan: The Struggle against International Terrorism.” At the foot of the photograph lies a collection of weapons confiscated from “terrorists” in Uzbekistan itself. To the left of the photograph is a tableau of scenes from the devastation caused by the bombs of February 16, 1999, along with portraits of “sons of Uzbekistan,” mostly police officers, who have lost their lives in the struggle with local...

  14. CONCLUSION: Andijan and Beyond
    (pp. 192-203)

    On Friday the thirteenth of May, 2005, night fell on a brutal massacre in Uzbekistan. A protest had turned violent and resulted in many deaths. The culprit, however, was the government, which had killed hundreds of its own citizens. The previous night, an armed uprising had broken out in the city of Andijan in the Ferghana Valley, as armed men, supporters of 23 men being tried on charges of religious extremism, stormed a jail and freed all prisoners. After the jailbreak, the insurgents took hostages and retreated into the building of the provincial government. As day broke on Friday, a...

  15. Afterword
    (pp. 204-210)

    My initial impulse to write this book came in response to widespread prognostications about the potential for radical Islam in Central Asia that appeared in the press in the aftermath of September 11. Far too often, it seemed to me, commentators were willing to project their understandings of Islam in Afghanistan and the Middle East onto the states of Central Asia, which were little known and even less understood. I wanted to argue that the region’s history, particularly the seventy years of Soviet rule, had produced specific configurations of Islam that made it quite different from its neighbors and rendered...

  16. Glossary
    (pp. 211-212)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 213-234)
  18. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 235-242)
  19. Index
    (pp. 243-249)