Reviews

The book is devoted mainly to the problems of Central Asia, the Muslim-peopled regions of the former Soviet Union which, according to the author, could become in the twenty-first century “the ‘new Middle East’ in the sense of being battleground for access to precious resources, for religious fundamentalism, and for sectarianism and authoritarian-vs.-democratic politics.” It is a thematic study where the author has attempted to identify a correlation between a set of significant and conflict generating issues mostly regarded as the access to energy resources, geopolitical rivalry between major superpowers and the rise of religious fundamentalism. On the other hand, it is also a comparative study where the conflict generating issues of Central Asia are considered in the light of conflicts occurring in other Muslim-peopled regions of the world, ranging from the Russian-Chechen war to contemporary tensions in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. Therefore, the book consists of several chapters devoted to one particular region or conflict, besides sections devoted to more general issues such as a historical and political overview or geopolitical and energy problems. One of the strongest contributions of the book is the inclusion of historical prospect and dimension in the study: Each region and conflict is regarded through the prism of historical and chronological dynamics of local social, political and religious factors and events. This is an especially welcome approach if we do consider the most violent and protracted conflicts such as the Civil War in Tajikistan (1992-7), which could be hardly understood without apprehension of its historical background and internal dynamics. The book is one of a few attempts to draw a comparison between contemporary conflicts in the world of Islam. It is also an attempt to draw a parallel and to find out the major similarities and differences between the main Islamist movements influential in different countries of the present-day world of Islam. Thus, a set of interesting parallels have been drawn between the conflicts in Chechnya and Tajikistan that remained unnoticed by previous studies. At the same time, the study is not intended to provide the reader with a deeper understanding of each of the conflict or Islamic movement under consideration. It rather gives a wider overview of the conflict generating issues acute in the modern world of Islam. As such, the book would draw attention of a wider range of contemporary social and political scholars, politicians , journalists to the region the significance of which is still underestimated or as the author stated is “barely understood” in the West.

Parviz Mullojanov, Centre for the Development of Tajikistan
CER: II-3.4.D-299