Reviews

By a leading figure of international security studies in Kyrgyzstan, this work, obviously intended for local students and specialists in radical political movements, draws large perspectives on nowadays Islamist terrorism—with special interest in their successful search, during the 1990s, for growing financial autonomy.  Written in sharp defence of secularism, the book refutes the concept of a conflict of civilisations; it stresses political Islam as a factor of inner division and as a threat for Muslim-background societies themselves.  The reader in quest of materials on Kyrgyzstan will be disappointed:  The book contains only two overall paragraphs on “the situation in Central Asia” (Xinjiang included) and on political Islamism in the same region of the world, both filled out with second-hand materials from the police of the People’s Republic of China, or from the neo-conservative Russian and international press (on Bin Laden and al-Qaida for instance, about which neither the Komsomol’skaia Pravda nor the Vechernyi Bishkek, if taken alone [pp. 122 and 133], can be taken as authoritative sources).  The bulk of the work is made of polemic arguments against ‘Wahhabism’ and ‘Salafism’, on the basis of classical and modern texts of Islam, apparently concocted for the use of vernacular administrators and politicians.  A leading thread of the author’s thought (32 ff.) is the denunciation of a coalition of interests between Uzbekistani Islamists and the Islamic Movement of Turkistan (Xinjiang), taken for granted though poorly documented.  Other trends are mutually confused for the need of the argumentation (so in the case of the Hizb al-Tahrir and the Akramiyya [109], two structures with a totally different respective history, geography, and sociology).  Another one is the direct link between events in the Near-East since the late 1960s and the emergence of Islamist movements throughout the region—with poor interest in the endogenous factors of the appearance and reinforcement of Central Asian political Islamism since the mid-1970s.  (By the way, 1973 is the right—thoufh highly debatable—date, instead of 1974 as stated p. 106, usually presented by the memoirs writers of the Party of the Islamic Revival of Tajikistan for the first appearance in the Qurghan-Teppa area of the “Movement of the Revival of Islam” under the leadership of Sayyid ‘Abd-Allah Nuri [d. 2006/08/09].)  As to the author’s interpretation of the authoritarian stance of most Central Asian regimes since the early 1990s as a reaction to vernacular political Islamism, it is to be taken as a personal view, quite a conservative one, now commonly widespread among the region’s authorised political analysts.  More success would be achieved by these multiplying studies on current political problems in Central Asia if they would correspond to the minimal requirements of political science and of ‘immediate history’—one of which being the identification and confrontation of primary sources of different kinds and origins, both conspicuous by their absence in the bulk of literature published locally and abroad on the more recent events of Central Asian history.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-8.4.A-723