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Political Islam in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan
journal contributionposted on 2001-12-01, 00:00 authored by Shahram AkbarzadehShahram Akbarzadeh
Kyrgyzs and Turkmens are relative newcomers to Islam. Kyrgyzs were among the last inhabitants of Turkestan to be Islamized. Even when Islamized, their nomadic lifestyle meant that the prevalent attitude among Kyrgyzs and Turkmens towards Islam was less rigid than their settled co-religionists. Kyrgyzs and Turkmens of Central Asia also share another common trait: recent admission to the club of 'nation-states'. This has sent state leaders in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan in search of their identity, suitable models of government and their place in the context of world politics. Concern with political legitimacy has involved a re-evaluation of historical legacies. How should the new states relate to their Soviet and pre-Soviet past? Can pre-Soviet Islamic traditions be reconciled with modern forms of government? What is the role of Islam in politics? Answers to these questions are often ambiguous. However, a general pattern is emerging. Despite differences of style in Kyrgyz and Turkmen politics, both state appear to regard Islam, in its doctrinal form, incompatible with politics. Both states favour a secular path of development that only tolerates islam in the cultural field, devoid of any political normative value.