Reviews

This analysis is an attempt to put in perspective the dynamics of the current Islamic “revival” in Central Asia and to provide a “realistic assessment” of its role in the region—with a critic of the Western exaggeration of the regional Iranian or Taliban influence during the 1990s.  Unfortunately, very limited means have been implemented by the author for assessing her views, and her discourse remains essentially prospective—which retrospectively shows risky, giving the political change in Iran since 2005.  Paragraphs on the “rebirth of Islam” focus on the most visible sign of this phenomenon, such as the increase in mosque construction in the 1990s, and does not take into account more subterranean, though relatively well-documented trends of the early and late Soviet periods.  Overall considerations on the ‘specificity’ of Central Asian Islam bring the author to adventurous prospective conclusions, asserting notably that “Islam will not take a revolutionary form in Central Asia” because Central Asian Muslims are Hanafi Sunni, not Shiites—a phrase that sounded very naïve even in the early 2000s, given the upheavals of the 1990s in the region.  As usually in a majority of studies on Central Asian Islam, Sufism is considered as a whole, without interest in the very varied, often antagonistic currents that have been dividing and mutually opposing mystical paths and currents during the whole twentieth century, up till now.  The paragraphs on the relations between Islam and politics are driven by essentialist postulates on the alleged “clan” structure of Central Asian societies—the appearance of “Islamic-led oppositions” being explained by the growth of “localism” and “regionalism”.  Case studies on each former Central Asian republic are dominated by the author’s advocacy of a political participation of “Muslim-based groups” for the latter “can reduce the likelihood of radical infiltration and subversion of the political system (see on Tajikistan p. 74).”  The paper ends with considerations on the relatively limited role played by Iran in Central Asia, the author stressing the essentially “moderate” character of the Khatami administration.

Stéphane A. Dudoignon, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
CER: I-8.4.A-728