Emomali Rahmon — Influential and Muslim

by Nathan Hamm on 11/30/2012 · 1 comment

Tajikistan’s state news agency, Khovar, had a story that we briefly summarized in yesterday’s Central Asia Monitor about President Emomali Rahmon being included on the list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims.

There really shouldn’t be much to this story. The Muslim 500 list is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center at the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic thought in Jordan. The list itself is kind of interesting. It has a disproportionate number of Americans, for example.

As far as Central Asia goes, representation is light. Only Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have anyone on the list. And in each case, there is only one person from each country. I am sure that some of our readers know better than I would, but it seems accurate to have Central Asia be so poorly represented on a list that is supposed to include the world’s most influential Muslims. So the Central Asia inclusions are actually somewhat odd. For example, from Turkmenistan:

Berdimuhamedow, H.E. President Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç: Berdimuhamedow has been the president of Turkmenistan since 21 December, 2006. He is a moderate Muslim traditionalist who has sought to normalize life in Turkmenistan after the more unorthodox religious beliefs of his predecessor Niyazov. In the 2012 elections, he was re-elected with 97% of the vote.

I can do that even shorter: “Berdimuhamedov: He’s not Turkmenbashi.” That’s all there is to it. He has not elevated himself to a quasi-divine status, so they are throwing him some recognition.

But back to Rahmon. Khovar says that Rahmon is on the list because he has protected the values of Islam, criticized Islamophobia in the West, and supports peaceful conflict resolution in Afghanistan and Palestine. At least, that’s what some unnamed political scientists and sociologists, because it most definitely is not what the actual entry says.

Rahmon has been the President of Tajikistan since 1994. He has done much to establish a distinct Tajik identity, and has called for closer ties with other Muslim nations in the region. He was listed on TIME Magazine’s “Top 10 Autocrats in trouble”.

That really does not sound like much praise at all. In fact, since they mention that he was called an “autocrat in trouble, I am a bit surprised that Khovar tried to brag about this at all, especially when ASIA-Plus reported the story accurately.

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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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{ 1 comment }

Schwartz December 5, 2012 at 3:19 am

Hmmm the list seems to be ignorant of the actual regulations being enforced on Islamic practice in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan (although, granted, there are pros and cons in the latter). Anyway, such lists are always problematic, regardless of topic.

I’m not entirely certain what the measurement is, but I would think, if salience, non-abrasive traditionalism, and nominality are measures, then why not also include Otunbayeva and Nazarbayev? Just saying…

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