Myth of Muslim Radicalization in Central Asia

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David W. Montgomery, Visiting Assistant Professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Anthropology Department, wrote an article with John Heathershaw titled “The ‘Muslim radicalisation of Central Asia’ is a dangerous myth” in Open Democracy. Here’s an excerpt:

In the security think-tanks and expert communities of the Western world, it is received wisdom that Central Asia has been, and remains, on the brink of an explosion of religiously-motivated violent extremism. Such an eruption, it is assumed, would place Central Asia alongside Afghanistan and some parts of the Middle East and South Asia that have suffered instability and violence commonly attributed to the inherent turbulence of Muslim politics since the middle of the 20th century.

The argument, sometimes implicit and sometimes explicit, is that there is something inherent in Islam that leads to radicalisation and violence. Seeing the danger in ‘Muslim politics’ rather than simply ‘politics’ exacerbates a fear that Central Asia could turn to the norm of the Islamic world, i.e. violent instability. Notwithstanding the underlying Islamophobia in some of these expert accounts of instability and danger, they should not be easily dismissed, for two reasons.

Firstly, Central Asia is a region of authoritarian kleptocracies run largely by Soviet-era leaders, some of which have suffered political instability. Their vulnerability to a moral, religion-based critique rooted in Islam is considerable. And their often-clumsy attempts to control religion are only inconsistently effective and are sometimes counter-productive.

Read the full article here.

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