Reviews

Contesting the leading theories on Islam as a response to encroaching Western culture or expression of nationalism, the author’s research and field interviews suggest that the causes of the post-Soviet transformation of Islamic religious practice in Kyrgyzstan (very classically labelled “Islamic revival”) is local rather than transnational, and a product of the failing Kyrgyz state. The spectacular growth of Islamic charities, notably, is interpreted as an answer to unmet welfare needs at the local level. Noting astutely that diverse methodological approaches are necessary if accurate measures are to be obtained when researching state and society variation in authoritarian states (16), E. McGlinchey has undergone a study drawing from a survey on public perceptions of Islam, but also on interviews and focus groups with social activists, state bureaucrats, and the intellectual and religious leaders of Islam in Kyrgyzstan. The data presented suggest that far from posing a threat, Kyrgyzstan’s “Islamic revival” may present a partial solution to Central Asia’s increasingly ineffective autocratic governance ― a generous viewpoint indeed, better informed than the Islamophobic visions conveyed by most Western chanceries and decision-making institutions, but also the resigned admission, rather common among liberal analysts, traditionally prone to take up different forms of cultural relativism, of the West’s definitive failure to diffuse its norms and models to Central Asian societies.

The Redaction
CER: II-7.4.D-659