Reviews

Responding to a strong social demand after the failed Akrami coup of May, 2005 in the city of Andijan, the author, a connoisseur of the subject and a leading Islamologist whose expertise is estimated by both US and Uzbekistani political institutions, embarks on a detailed exposition of the Akramiyya’s history and ideology since the very genesis of this religious community (the polemic term ‘sect’ appears too restrictive, as well as the expression “free association of civic orientation” proposed by A. Il’khamov).  Based on numerous interviews with religious leaders of varied ranks and with (former) members of the Akramiyya, as well as on some video materials emanating from the community, the article partly focuses on the life and work of the Akramiyya’s founder and historical leader Akrom Yuldoshev (b. 1963).  The author first stresses the latter’s discovery of the Qur’an in a Russian translation published during Perestroika in the Russian-language Uzbekistani academic journal Zvezda Vostoka. His biographical sketch continues with Yuldoshev’s initial adhesion to, and rapid disillusion with the London-based Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islamiyya, through his acquaintance in 1989 with the leader of the Uzbekistani branch of the party, Abdurashid Qosimov.

The most significant part of this study is devoted to the genesis and structure of the Akramiyya, with interesting—though necessarily undocumented—data on: (1) the community’s expansion (notably towards Russia’s industrial centres with a migrant population from Central Asia); (2) its inner hierarchy (establishing a clear distinction between the “hired workmen [yollanma ishchilar]” and the “subjects [itoatchilar]”); (3) its inner organisation (its basis units [halqas] being made of groups of three to seven workers under the authority of a “leader [peshqadam]”), the technical functioning of an Akrami enterprise being led by a “special economic manager [special khoss moddii mas‘ul],” its ideological supervision by a “special spiritual manager [khoss ruhii mas‘ul]”; (4) some if its key institutions (like the bayt ul-mal—the Treasury of the organisation that showed instrumental in the preparation of the 2005 uprising—and the ijodii halqa—a clear reminiscence of the Executive Committees of the locally defunct Communist Party).  His long-term contacts inside the community (see notably his previous paper “Islam in Uzbekistan: From the Struggle for ‘Religious Purity’ to Political Activism,” in B. Rumer, ed., Central Asia: A Gathering Storm?, New York – London, 2002: 299-322) allow the author to stress the sociological profile of the members of the Akramiyya (amongst whom dominates a type made of young men of provincial origin with a secular, mainly technical higher education).  

B. Babajanov also sheds light on the Akramiyya’s specific integration in the social networks of the Fergana Valley, on a still non-elucidated combination of kinship, geographical, economic, and ideological lines.  Contrary to a lot of allegations by liberal-minded Western observers and commentators of the May 2005 Andijan uprising, the author, on the basis of a discussed version of the movement’s key theoretical text, Yuldoshev’s treatise “The Path to Faith (Imonga yo‘l, 1992),” insists on the culture of political violence that has been developed by the Akramiyya and its leader since the beginning of the community’s history (see the analysis of this work pp. 65-75, and its Russian translation pp. 76-115).”  B. Babajanov explains the failed coup of Andijan by the Akramis’ attempt to take profit of the disturbances created by the March 2005 takeover in Kyrgyzstan.  A special chapter is devoted to another Uzbekistani radical organisation, the “Enlighteners (Ma‘rifatchilar),” and to their founder Bahodyr Mamajonov (b. 1950), a teacher of geography who also discovered the Qur’an through the Russian translation of Zvezda Vostoka, and became the promoter of a modernist trend oriented toward the abolition of madhhabs and simplification of rituals.

Some qualifications are brought to this characterisation of the Akramiyya by another substantial contribution of the same issue of Rasy i narody (A. Il’khamov, “Akramiia: ekstremistskoe dvizhenie ili predtecha islamskoi sotsial’noi demokratii? [The Akramiyya: An Extremist Movement or the Forerunner of Islamic Social-Democracy?],” ibid.: 116-56).  Sketching some corrections to Yuldashev’s biography, the author, informed by former members of the community, then focuses on the development, by the local businessman Bahrom Shakirov, of the first economic unit of the Akramiyya in a suburban district of Andijan, from 1993 to the arrest of a number of its members on June 23, 2004 and the beginning of their proceedings in February 2005—the incident that sparked off the known events of May 13-14 in Andijan.  Discussing the community’s ideology through a critical reappraisal of Akrom Yuldashev’s work, the author underlies the absence of call to a violent takeover in versions less suspect to have been blue-pencilled by the Uzbekistani security organs.  The core of this article is a tentative global analysis of the logic at work in the Uzbekistani state’s attempt at restoring taxation on bazaars and petty traders in the early 2000s, and of the protest movements that appeared through the country during the years 2003-4.  So doing, the author also sketches interesting, though elliptic enough comparisons between the Akrami community and the “Wahhabi” jamaats in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Kabardo-Balkaria.  Depicting the Akramis as well-to-do businessmen of Andijan and its region, the author insists on the essentially late character of the community’s radicalisation, linked to his eyes with the mass confiscations that preceded the proceedings against Shakirov and his associates in early 2005.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-5.3.D-464