Politics, Not Religion?

by Nathan Hamm on 7/31/2004 · 4 comments

The AP’s Burt Herman’s latest story is worth checking out. First, he says that Karimov didn’t explicity blame Hizb ut-Tahrir. Reuters made it sound like he did.

The most interesting part comes from someone claiming to be close to the group responsible.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the group was based in Pakistan and had been founded by several former fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al-Qaida-linked terror group, after they fell out with that movement’s leaders.

The account squares with testimony of the 15 suspects who went on trial this week for the spring attacks. Authorities said earlier the new extremist group was linked to international terror groups and its members were trained in Pakistan by al-Qaida instructors.

Although the group uses the name Jamoat, or “Society” for its cells, the source said it had no real name.

The source said al-Qaida had targeted Uzbekistan because of its support of the U.S. anti-terror coalition in neighboring Afghanistan. U.S. troops have been based in the southern city of Khanabad since October 2001.

“It’s about politics, not religion,” the source said, predicting further attacks. “It will calm down here when the U.S. base goes.”

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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 July 31, 2004 at 9:25 pm


Thanks as always for the regular updates. I’ve been back here too many times today, thirsting for the best source of news. A question, though. In an earlier post you noted, and I’m paraphrasing here, that doubtless Hizb al-Tahrir was the biggest opposition force in Uzbekistan. I have so much troube believing that — not because I doubt you, but because I have trouble seeing what Hizb al-Tahrir offers… Then again, that may be due to the oppressive political environment…

Still, the HT I’ve experienced in the US and Pakistan has been a frustrating narrow-minded and often very, very sidelined group. More traditional Islamist organizations, even “radical” ones like Hizbollah, seem to have so much more to offer ideologically. I wonder if HT is strong in Uzbekistan alone, or in other Central Asian nations, too?

Nathan July 31, 2004 at 9:48 pm

It seems like they are mostly powerful in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

I hate going out on limbs, but… I think they are powerful for a few reasons. One is that the message is heavily concerned with the corrupting effects of capitalism. When I read their literature, I think, “This is Marxism if Marx had been Muslim.” (OK, so not entirely, but, you get the drift). I would guess that that message resonates strongly in the former Soviet Union. It’s easy to move from the Church of Lenin to HT (with the important caveat that I could be horribly wrong in my off-the-cuff sociology).

I also think it’s powerful because it’s so secretive. It’s tough to find these guys. It doesn’t necessarily mean that HT’s message is the most popular for the strongly religious, it just means they have a competitive advantage. Any of the groups aligned with the IMU/AQ tend to reveal themselves through their acts. HT advocates fitting in and waiting for the proper time.

So, I agree, I don’t think they have anything special to offer. I just think they’ve got some characteristics that make it easier for them to thrive in that environment.

upyernoz August 1, 2004 at 11:16 am

what they also have to offer is that they are perceived to be the biggest political force that is not karimov. when a leader is unpopular, people are naturally attracted to the strongest opposition faction, just because it stands the best chance of getting rid of the unpopular leader. probably many people who HT counts as its followers may not actually be on board with the political islam thing.

that also explains why HT doesn’t seem to offer much. keeping their full agenda vague helps broaden the number of people who are willing to support them. all they’re really selling is being the supposedly biggest anti-karimov faction. (and karimov’s strategy of blaming everything on them only adds to their mystique of power)

T August 2, 2004 at 10:26 am

Found this today @ Rantburg. I expect it’s an oversimplification of the cituation; what is your opinion?

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