by Nathan Hamm on 4/9/2004 · 2 comments

It looks like journalists are having little trouble finding unhappy Uzbeks willing to actually talk about their anger at the government. This willingness to talk is probably a good indicator of just how upset people are. Desperation and frustration are overtaking fear.

And, check out these words from a Tashkent imam from an official mosque:

Abdulkarim Abdullayev, the imam of a legal mosque in the old city at the center of Tashkent, acknowledged that economic problems had driven some young people to radicalism.

“They say on television that it’s Muslim extremists,” he said. “But you’ve got to clarify that there are a lot of economic problems here, not enough work.”

He suggested that a more democratic system could provide an outlet. “Even though there are economic problems, they have to be dealt with the way they are in developed democracies in Europe,” he said. “In Europe people go into the streets with slogans and demand things.”

This kind of though is why Stephen Schwartz is right when he says that Central Asian Islam is the kind of Islam we should support against Wahabbism (even if Schwartz pushes his arguments way too far because he’s a Sufi).

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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haroon April 14, 2004 at 6:11 am

as an admission: i am not “wahhabi,” but i have sympathies for their point of view, and agree, at bottom, with their ideas on what constitutes religion and innovation in religion. however, i see wahhabism as too cold, too deadening and too obsessed with details over meaningful closeness to God to be much of a promising islamic movement.

nonetheless, let me say — the problem with “traditional” islam is its quietism. people like schwarz (he’s full of it, imho) rant on and on about the glories of sufism, and how wahhabism stole that, but let’s be honest. wahhabism was responding to a vacuum. not only did sufism draw the muslims’ attention away from politics (consider how sufis avoid politics — and then magnify that), they also, from some points of view, made more likely the conquest of the islamic world. not ignoring their contributions to resistance…

wahhabism remains popular because it is an energetic form of religiosity. sufism, unfortunately, becomes too passive, and in regions of the world with so much violence, oppression and the like, people want action. and salvation.

Nathan April 14, 2004 at 6:49 am

Those are some good points, and I think they hit the nail on the head. It’s pretty much the same deal with fundamentalist forms of Christianity here.

And yes, Schwarz is full of it. I think it’s especially funny how he’s got this fantasy that Central Asians are all just a bunch of practicing Sufis, trying to make it in this crazy world.

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