Reviews

This study uses individual-level survey data from Kyrgyzstan to investigate the implications of Islamic religious beliefs for political attitudes, particularly political tolerance.  The authors find that traditional demographic factors such as region and ethnicity and, to a lesser extent, age influence overall levels of intolerance.  Unsurprisingly too, the findings also show that establishing shari‘a-based political institutions clearly remains a minority preference among even Muslims in Kyrgyzstan.  And to the extent that economic factors play a role in such things, those who are worse off are not more likely to favour an Islamic state.  This, however, is far from the whole story:  Among Muslims who identify atheists as their least liked group, we do find substantially lower levels of tolerance.  Thus while Islam may not affect the level of intolerance across the board, it appears to do so selectively, i.e. with respect to those who perceive their religious opponents as their least liked group.  At the same time, according to the authors’ premonition, events of the early 2000s have imprinted a specific course on Kyrgyzstani society.  Since 2001 the entire region has emerged as a staging ground for the military campaigns against the Taliban in Afghanistan.  With Islamic militants being designated as international terrorists, governments everywhere have shown sorely tempted to seize the opportunity to crack down on domestic opposition.  In Central Asia, this has included moderate Islamic groups.  In this regard, the authors astutely remark the ironic possibility that “exaggerated official concern over Islam can promote further intolerance, and hasten the very outcome that repressive actions aimed to avoid.”

The Redaction
CER: I-5.3.D-471