Seyed Rasoul Mousavi

نوامبر 10, 2009

Islamic Movements in Central Asia

Filed under: English, مقاله — برچسب‌ها: , , , , , , — سید رسول موسوی @ 3:09 ب.ظ.
This article attempts to underscore the fact that general socio-political movements, including the Islamic movements of Central Asia, were somehow affected by history. Undoubtedly many other movements are rooted in past experiences and in order to portray a more accurate picture of the present realities the article will focus on the Islamic movements of the 1990s and will not cover the various Islamic movements in the contemporary history of Central Asia.


Subsequent to the demise of the former Soviet Union and the independence of the Central Asian states various socio-political movements began to take shape in Central Asia, some of which originated in the history, tradition, and culture of those societies, while others were affected by regional and global trends.

One of the important political and social trends in Central Asia in the 1990s is the Islamic movement that has taken considerable dimensions and variety. Not only have Islamic movements affected the political scenes, but they have had considerable impacts on the intellectual and cultural arenas.

There is no doubt that one the bases of the Islamic movements rests in Islamic history, culture, and tradition of the people, creating the opportunity for the leaders of these movements to mobilize the populace and thus affect politico-social trends and structures. This article attempts to underscore the fact that general socio-political movements, including the Islamic movements of Central Asia, were somehow affected by history. Undoubtedly many other movements are rooted in past experiences and in order to portray a more accurate picture of the present realities we will focus our attention on the Islamic movements of the 1990s and will not cover the various Islamic movements in the contemporary history of Central Asia.

Another key factor that must be focused upon when dealing with Islamic movements of Central Asia is that in order to develop a better understanding of Islamic movements in the region it is necessary to obtain general information on the totality of Islamic movements and trends in the region. In other words, by adopting a deductive perspective, we will move from general to particular and thus will be able to clarify our discussion in a more efficient way.

And finally, although we will limit ourselves to the Islamic movements in Central Asia in the 1990s, due to the importance of the September 11 events, we will attempt to provide a scenario on the post-9/11 Islamic movements.

Typology of Islamic Movements

In order to understand Islamic movements in Central Asia, familiarity with the intellectual and historical origins of the Islamic movements in the 20th century is necessary. The reason is that Islamic movements in Central Asia are part of Islamic movements throughout the Islamic world. The origin of all Islamic movements, uprisings, and organizations can be traced back to the Islamic Renaissance Movement led by Seyyed Jamaleddin Asad Abadi (1838-1898) and Mohammad Abdoh (1849-1905). The Islamic Renaissance Movement called on Muslims to unite and put aside their differences in face of the colonial powers. A reversion to Islamic teachings and the revival of Islamic values and traditions were viewed as the most effective resistance.[1]

The Islamic Renaissance Movement that took shape as a reaction to colonial objectives and grew to become the basis for the shaping of many other movements that emerged as societies, organizations, and various parties throughout the Islamic territories from Indonesia to the Middle East, and Egypt. They adopted various political agendas and became active. Today, one cannot find any single Islamic movement that is not somehow inspired by the Renaissance Movement of Seyyed Jamal and Mohammad Abdoh and their slogans, plans, ideas, and objectives.

The followers of the Islamic Renaissance Movement stressed the necessity of reversion back to the principles and fundaments of Islam in various intellectual frameworks. They have encouraged a different discourse to undergird its development. They were divided into various organizations with their specific policies. These groups have been categorized in various ways for the purpose of study. For instance, some have divided them into two main Sunni and Shiite branches.[2] Others classify them according to their resistance policies, labeling them as radical, fundamentalist, or conservative. Yet another group divides them into political and fundamentalist categories in their study.[3]

Another basis of categorization of Islamic movements, groups or their associated groups is their perception of the reason(s) for the resurgence of Islam, a very delicate and sensitive issue. In this latter category, a collection of rhetorical, intellectual, and philosophical issues are proposed at the two extremes of a spectrum. While the arguments at both ends sound similar, they point to totally different, and even opposite, directions.

For instance, the discussions of Seyyed Jamal and Rashid Reza (1865-1935) can be mentioned. Both raise similar arguments in favor of revitalizing Islam, yet at the end Seyyed Jamal’s argument would lead to the integration of the Islamic world, whereas Reza’s discourse would result in a centrifugal trend and disintegration.

Of course many Islamic issues, namely rhetorical ones, address the emergence of Islam from a variety of perspectives. Islamic rhetoric was affected by the Mutazeleh, Ashae’ereh, Jabriun, and Ikhtiariun discussions. Despite their apparent similarity, these discussions led to very different results.

The issue of Islamic resurgence is similar to rhetorical discussions. One account holds that Islamic resurgence aims at solving the problems of the Muslims. Another account has it that only with the resurgence of Islam can the problems of Muslims be solved. Both arguments appear to be the same. But a careful consideration would reveal their differences, especially when the definition of the term “problems” is attempted.

The first account subscribes to the view that reason can identify problems and the solution to these problems can be found in Islamic teachings. However, in the second account the nature of the problem is not discussed. The only point that is raised is that Islamic resurgence per se can solve all problems. It would not be necessary to identify the problems as man is immersed in difficulties and pain and the only solution would be to embrace Islam.

This seemingly simple discussion has given way to two opposing camps in the Islamic world that can be referred to as the supporters of the “Islamic revolutions”[4] and the supporters of “Salafi” orientations.

The supporters of the Islamic revolution can be found among Sunnis (such as Abu Ali Mowdudi) and also among Shiites, a case in point is Imam Khomeini [p]. Also among the Salafis one can find Sunnis (Wahhabi Talibans) and Shiites (Akhbariun); and all Islamic movements fall within the two ends of this spectrum. These extremes do not prescribe specific resistance policies and embody various groups of radicals, conservatives, and extremists that have taken shape in accordance with the situation of each country.

In the Islamic revolutionary thought Ijtihad is referred to as the intellectual capacity of man in resolving problems on the basis of Islamic principles; whereas Salafi Ijtihad is considered as revisionism and is condemned.

The Salafi School

The Salafis hold that Islamic beliefs must be expressed as they were during the beginning of Islam and Islamic tenets must be drawn from the book and tradition. Ulama are prohibited from thinking on the basis of anything but Qur’anic proof and logical methods cannot be used to shape Islamic thought. Salafis believe that only what was practiced during the time of the Prophet [p] can be allowed.[5]

Some believe that the Salafi School originated in the Hanbali religion that was propagated by Ahmad bin Hanbal (164-241 Hegira).  Mohammad bin Jarir Tabari and Mohammad bin Ghassem al-Nadim consider him as a hadith thinker and not a mujtahid. Being knowledgeable in the field of hadith and a follower of hadith supporters, he was against any interpretation of texts and opposed the supporters of Rai’i (judgment).[6]

For one century Hanbal’s ideas were considered as the very principles of Sunnah and in this period the verbatim application of the “word” was practiced. Islamic society became extremely rigid in its practices. With the shaping of kalam discussions and strengthening of other religions, i.e., Shafei, Hanbal’s ideas lost their appeal. But in the 7th and 8th centuries Ahmad bin Teymieh (661-728 hegira) worked rigorously and frantically on Hanbal’s ideas. In this period, independent philosophical thoughts were weakened. Focus was placed on appearances and atmospherics of religion. Upon the death of bin Teymieh, the Salafi School and the teachings of Hanbal were once again forgotten. It was in the 12th century hegira that Mohammad bin Abdulwahhab Nojdi (1115-1206 hegira) called on a return to Islam and Salafi way, thus resurrecting past discussions. He called on Muslims to observe the original simplicity of Islamic way and follow the path of the best Salafi adherents such as Salih Ahmad bin Hanbal. He opposed any practice that did not exist during the Prophet’s time and considered them as shirk and impious. [7]

Once the Saudi rulers adopted the teachings of Mohammad bin Abdulwahhab and formed their government in Hijaz, the Islamic world was greatly affected. The Wahhabis consider themselves as Salafi and believe that their actions should be in line with the followers of the Prophet [p]. The fundaments of religion should be based on Quran and the literal interpretations of hadiths, which should be emulated without any change or adaptation. Their exact wording should be followed. In this context, should Muslims not abide by the exact word of Quran and hadith, they will be considered as violators of Islamic principles.

Salafis somehow believe in interpretation-free Islam and stress the necessity of reverting back to the behavior of the first three generations of the followers of the Prophet [p]. They seek to emulate the Prophet’s tradition and consider other Islamic religions or religious-philosophical interpretations as wholly unnecessary. They reject Ijtihad or the logical interpretation of religious rules.[8]

At the end of the 19th century, the plan of reversion to Islam was raised by Seyyed Jamal and Mohammad Abdoh as a way to confront colonialism. Many groups and organizations began to form in the Islamic world and especially in Egypt. A case in point is Ikhwan-ul Muslimin that was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Bana. Later on Ikhwan’s branches were formed in other countries and other similar groups were formed. Hassan al-Bana summarizes the main principles of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin as follows:

It is a Salafi movement, a fundamentalist method, a Sufi truth, a political institution, a heroic group, a cultural and scientific association, economic enterprise, and a social idea.[9]

The followers of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin considered their movement as Salafi and in specific periods they drew very close to Saudi Salafis. Nonetheless, due to a host of political and social differences and as a result of confronting whole new problems they were forced to reconsider the Wahhabi beliefs. As they considered their mission to be global and believed in the activity of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin throughout the world, they were forced to establish links with other Muslim groups and stop condemning them.

Other movements took shape alongside Ikhwan-ul Muslimin, i.e., Rashid Reza (1865-1935) that emphasized the Salafi School. Rashid Reza is a Syrian leader who attached great importance to the teachings of Mohammad bin Abdulwahhab. He theorized Salafi principles in contexts other than the Hanbali School. Rashid Reza considered religion and government as linked and as the main conduit to the realization of all Islamic ideals throughout the world.[10]

Rashid Reza’s ideas on the caliphate were not new and before him other important Salafi thinkers such as Maverdi, Ghazali, and Ibn Jama’eh in the fifth, sixth, and eighth centuries expounded on this issue. However, Reza’s discussions coincided with the Ottoman fall and the resurgence of new caliphate movements in the peninsula and thus assumed increasing importance and led to the nascence of a whole new movement inside Ikhwan-ul Muslimin known as “Hizb-ul Tahrir”. The objective of this movement was declared to be the revival of caliphate in the Islamic world as the sole road to unity. Hizb-ul Tahrir was first incepted in Jerusalem and later on spread in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and then onto the countries of Central Asia. There are branches other than hizb-ul Tahrir in Ikhwan-ul Muslimin, which has itself spread in other countries without these branches being strictly guided organizationally. Various branches of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin became active in the 1940s in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Kuwait, Sudan, and Yemen.

Sudan’s Ikhwan-ul Muslimin that was founded in 1946 changed leadership in 1985 and Hassan Torabi assumed power. In Syria, Mustafa al-Masaie founded Ikhwan in 1945. Its leader was known as the “general guardian.” This branch accepted the leadership of Egypt’s Ikhwan-ul Muslimin, but after the 1982 suppression of the movement in Syria two groups were formed. The first group was led by Adnan Sa’deddin and was radical. Its leader later took refuge in Iraq. The second group was led by Ibrahim Abughoddeh who fled to Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, the movement’s leadership was transferred to Abud-ul Rahman Khalifah who had a good relationship with the king. The movement was able to send representatives to the Parliament and many Palestinians joined it.[11]

The Palestinian Ikhwanis reside alongside the Jordan River and in Gaza Strip. In 1987 they formed the Hamas led by Sheikh Yasin Ramadhan. Hamas accuses the Palestinian Freedom Movement of being laic. Also Sheikh Oudeh and Fathi Shaghaghi lead another Ikhwan group known as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.[12]

In Kuwait, Ikhwan-ul Muslimin are close to the ruling elite and are active in the government and parliament of the country. During the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the occupation of that country by Iraq’s army a special rift began to appear in the Ikhwan ranks. This was not so much due to various positions on the occupation of Kuwait, but rather to the Saudi invitation of the US to establish presence in the Saudi soil and liberate Kuwait. Hassan Torabi, the leader of Sudan’s Ikhwan-ul Muslimin was the first to condemn the Saudi invitation. Rashed-ul Ghonushi from Tunisia and then branches in Jordan, the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, and another branch of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin in Egypt led by Mamun-al Hazibi condemned Saudi Arabia’s move. Kuwait’s Ikhwan-ul Muslimin led by Ismail Shatti condemned the position of other branches and resigned from all Ikhwan activities. Following his lead, the Ikhwan branches in the Persian Gulf countries began confronting the general position adopted by Ikhwan.

Saudi Arabia stopped extending aid to those groups that criticized its policies, a factor that caused additional rifts among Ikhwan ranks. For instance, Tunisia’s Ikhwan-ul Muslimin was divided into a hard-line branch led by Rashed al-Ghonush and a moderate group let by Abdulfattah Soro.

Saddam Hussein invited all opposing groups to a “popular Islamic conference” in Baghdad. The invitation fanned differences. Saddam Hussein believed he could stay in Kuwait and use that country’s wealth to assume the leadership of all Islamic movements and replace Saudi Arabia. Saddam’s defeat, however, brought considerable pressure on his supporters. The governments of Jordan and Tunisia that had previously supported Iraq’s attack to Kuwait reneged by cracking down on the Ikhwan-ul Muslimin.

In addition to the branches of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin in Arab countries, there are other Islamist institutions that are somehow linked to Ikhwan, i.e., Al-Nehzah in Tunisia, Al-Adl wal-Ihsan in Maghreb, the Islamic Salvation Front, and Hamas.[13]

Also in the non-Arab world, various Islamic organizations have taken shape; they have established contact with Ikhwan-ul Muslimin. For instance, Fadayeean Islam is a case in point as it was founded by Nawab Safavi in Iran and is known as the Iranian and Shiite branch of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin. Islamic Jamiyat Party in Afghanistan is another case. The group is led by Burhanudin Rabbani and is known as the Afghan branch of Ikhwan-ul Muslimin. In Afghanistan proper there are numerous groups other than Rabbani’s and the Islamic Jamiyat Party. For instance, Abdolrab Rasoul Sayyaf is considered as an influential member of the Ikhwan-ul Muslimin organization.[14]

Also Malaysia’s Muslim Youth Movement in 1971 and the Islamic movements in Indonesia are linked to Ikhwan-ul Muslimin.

“Islamic Movement Party” was formed in 1990 in the former Soviet Union and was divided into smaller groups subsequent to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Although the Party was not affiliated to Ikhwan-ul Muslimin, its ideology was very similar to that movement. The offshoots of the former Soviet Islamic Movement Party adopted various methods to continue their activities in the other republics which will be elaborated on later in this article.

The Idea of the Islamic Revolution

In addition to the Salafi view, there was another viewpoint that stressed a return to Islam and the path of the Prophet [p] based on Ijtihad and adaptation to the requirements of modern age based on Islamic principles. We will refer to this viewpoint as “the idea of the Islamic revolution.”

The formation of the country of Pakistan was a manifestation of this idea among the Sunnis and the Islamic revolution in Iran was its manifestation in Shiite Iran. It bears mention that it is not easy to draw exact lines between these ideas as they constitute a spectrum and considering the shaping of Pakistan as a manifestation of this idea requires elaboration.

We know that Pakistan was formed on the basis of the pressure exerted by the Muslim minority against the Hindu majority of India. At the beginning, Islamic thinkers, namely Abulala Mowdudi, were not happy to see Islam become an instrument for the shaping of a new national government. Similar to the Sunni Ulama of the peninsula, they were against the movement that led to the creation of Pakistan. They considered Islam as a global religion, not the ideological backdrop to the formation of a national government (the problem with the Arab nationalists). Nonetheless, later as the Secretary General of the Pakistan Movement declared that the new rebirth of Islam was in the making, they changed their mind.[15]

Another point worth mention is that at one point in history, the formation of Pakistan was traced back to the problem of Muslim minority in the Peninsula and it was necessary to use the idea of a return to Islam in order to resolve the problem.

Hamid Enayat defines ideology in terms of a wholly homogeneous Islamic revolution theory. Meanwhile, Mowdudi believes that an Islamic government would fall apart in the absence of an Islamic revolution. Some of his arguments are supported by secular ideologies. Also, they are similar to the ideas of the revolutionary movement of France, Russia, and Nazi Germany. Mowdudi holds that none of these movements could have succeeded without relying on social awareness and the ethical environment conducive to its growth. Yet this awareness and environment can only be created through revolution.[16] Here, Mowdudi’s role in founding the “Jama’at Islami” movement of Pakistan deserves mention. In Pakistan, Jama’at Islami was a fundamentalist movement that attempted to resort to Islamic principles and provide answers to issues related to government.

In Egypt, Ikhwan-ul Muslimin took shape at a time when Islam was relegated back to the political backburner. The power and influence of secular political ideologies, liberal or leftist, left no room for religious activism. Yet in Pakistan as Islam was the raison d’etre of the state, the situation was different and Islam was the main issue of discussion in various intellectual quarters between Muslims, non-Muslims, and the Hindus.[17]

Islam has always been highly regarded and respected among India’s Muslim elite as a bastion for resistance against British imperialism, Hindu revival, and as conduit to foster unity among India’s Muslims or preserving the Muslim identity in face of the Hindu control. This important historical reality is the factor that sets Jama’at Islami apart from its Egyptian and Iranian counterparts. In other words, it reflected a greater political maturity as it inspired national discussions on various issues faced by Pakistan during its arduous and long path towards independence. As the Ikhwan and Fadayeean members were fighting against their opposition or went underground or even joined hands with other groups, Jama’at Islami was allowed or even encouraged to raise its voice officially towards the creation of Pakistan’s Islamic Republic.

Unlike Ikhwan-ul Muslimin, Jama’at Islami never faced internal rifts and dissent; but just as the Zionist threat somehow caused the ossification of Ikwan’s ideology in the Muslim countries, the Indian nationalist threat fed fundamentalist drives in Pakistan and this issue can clearly be detected in the search of Pakistan for political and legal order.[18] So much so that in recent events one of the reasons for the support extended to the Taliban was cited as Pakistan’s security problems and attaining strategic advantage over the issue of Kashmir.

The victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran was another example of the role of the idea of a return to Islam. Adopting an historical and sociological perspective to politico-social issues prior to the victory of Iran would reveal that in the pre-revolutionary days Iran’s society was out of balance and had reached dead-end politically. The then government had lost the ability to establish contact with the society. The return to Islam that was encouraged by the works of Taleghani, Mottahari, Shariati, and Bazargan (despite the differences between them) caused a social upheaval under the leadership of Imam Khomeini [p]. And the political and social barriers were broken and a new order replaced the old one on the basis of Islamic principles.

Islamic Movement in Central Asia

After a detailed discussion on the typology of Islamic movements, we will attempt to take a look at existing Islamic movements in Central Asia and provide a general picture of Islamic movements in Central Asia.

Due to the suppressive policies of the former Soviet Union, Islamic movements in Central Asia do not have a long history. Generally speaking, these movements were severely suppressed during the Soviet era. These movements were crushed at the onset of the Soviet system (1917-1928) and were known as the Basmachis.[19] Thereafter, true Muslim believers were referred to as Vavchik and suppressed. It was only after the ascension to power of Mikhael Gorbachev and his political reforms that new Islamic movements began to take shape in the former Soviet territory.

One of the impacts of Gorbachev’s perestroika was the inception of the Islamic revival movement in the former Soviet Union. The party first emerged as an all-Soviet entity and secured the permission of Moscow’s officials to organize its first congress on 9 July 1990 in Astarakhan to the north of the Caspian Sea. Abbas Kabduf formed the Islamic Revival Party’s Central Committee in Daghestan’s Ghaziport city. Later Mohammad Baha-uldin was voted into the leadership of the party by 183 members of the executive board of the congress.[20]

The Islamic Revival Party was administered by a 15-member council made up of traditional and intellectual clerics. This Party was more reminiscent of the Bolsheviks than Islamic movements in various Muslim countries. The declared objective of the party was to defend freedom and the conscience of all Muslims throughout the former Soviet Union on the basis of unifying all Muslims.[21]

In spite of reference to words such as humanity, peace, and development, the orientation of the Party was neo-fundamentalist and it sought to analyze social problems on the basis of Islamic teachings. Defending social justice through redistribution of wealth and Islamic taxes is a case in point. The Soviet war in Afghanistan contributed to the revival of Islamic thought among the Muslims of the former Soviet Union. The war left a two-pronged impact on the Muslims; first was the stirring of the emotions of the Muslims who saw the Soviet invasion as the violation of Muslims’ rights; and second was Islamic literature that entered the former Soviet Union through the translation of various Islamic authors, namely the works of Seyyed Qotb that were translated by Afghans familiar with the Russian language. The emotional impact of the Afghan war became apparent only after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. The individuals who led Islamic movements in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and from Tatarstan to Chechnya and Daghestan were individuals who were either present in Afghanistan or were familiar with Afghan literature imported into the Soviet Union in one way or the other.[22]

The breakup of the former Soviet Union and the independence of the republics, including the Muslim republics of Central Asia and Azerbaijan, affected the Islamic Revival Party that operated on a national scale. The Party was divided among the republics and each of the Party leaders became active in their own republics and Moscow was no longer central to the operations of the Party. The Islamic movements with political ambitions were scattered in three areas of the former Soviet Muslim territories: 1. Central Asia; 2. The Caucasus and Transcaucasus; 3. The Russian Federation. In this article we will focus on the Islamic movements of Central Asia.

Subsequent to the disintegration of the former Soviet Union and the independence of the five republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan as a result of perestroika, two democratic and nationalist (identity-centric rather nationalistic) trends began to take shape in these countries. But the governments were mostly made up of the Communist elite and therefore, they prevented the growth of reformist movements.

Among the five Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were quick to suppress reformers. Kyrgyzstan suppressed the Islamists but was able to coexist with the democratic movements to some extent. Uzbekistan adopted harsh policies vis-à-vis the democratic and Islamist movements and as these movements were strong, Tashkent had to confront their challenges every now and then. In Tajikistan, these two movements merged and drew on the cooperation of intellectuals and nationalist forces and were thus able to withstand government pressure. But the attempt to suppress this movement led to four years of war that was finally brought to end through peace negotiation of the government and the opposition leading to the formation of a national reconciliation government. Tajikistan was the sole country in Central Asia wherein an Islamic movement was legalized and participated in the presidential and parliamentarian elections. The movement has its representative in the parliament.

Generally, there are three Islamic movements in Central Asia. This does not mean, however, that smaller groups do not exist. Yet there are three movements with sufficient impact on political trends in the region and these are: 1. Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party; 2. Uzbekistan’s Islamic Movement; 3. Hizb-ol Tahrir.

The first two movements identify themselves with their countries of origin. The third movement does not identify with any country, a fact that will be explained at a later stage.

Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party

On 9 July 1999, the Islamic Revival Party was founded in Moscow with the objective of unifying all Muslims in the former Soviet Union. Alongside this development, Tajikistan’s Muslims sought the establishment of the Islamic Movement Party. The first session of the Party founders was held in the village of Chahartoot of the Lenin region near Dushanbe. Mohammad Sharif Hemmat Zadeh was elected as the Party leader. The government voiced concern about this session. This is while the Islamic Revival Party was registered in Moscow, the Soviet Union still existed, and the Tajik authorities accused and fined the session participants.[23]

The then Tajik government officially changed the law of freedom, conscience, and religion, adding to the law that the official organization of political parties with religious agendas was prohibited in Tajikistan. As a result of the ratification of this law in Tajikistan’s parliament, the Islamic Movement Party never registered and started underground activities against the government and alongside other reformist groups.

In the aftermath of Gorbachev’s policies, the reformists all over the former Soviet Union became active against the ruling elite and the Communist Party. In Tajikistan, the reformist spectrum comprised opponents of the Communist Party and the ruling regime, i.e., Rastakhiz Popular Organization, Tajikistan’s Democratic Party, La’l Badakhshan Organization, and the Islamic Movement Party. These groups first raised cultural demands, such as granting an official status to the Tajik language, revival of national traditions, and declaring religious days as holidays (eid-ul fitr and eid-ul Qurban). In time and as events unfolded in the former Soviet Union they became politically active.[24]

The Rastakhiz Popular Organization was founded by a number of writers and poets with the aim of Tajikistan’s cultural revival. The Organization was registered on 14 September 1989 at the Tajik Ministry of Justice. Tajikistan’s Democratic Party was founded on 10 August 1990 in the city of Dushanbe and succeeded in attracting a considerable number of intellectuals and academic elite of that country. The La’l Badakhshan Organization was founded by a number of young members from Pamir (Badakhsan). This was while the Ministry of Justice refused to register the Islamic Movement Party, considering that organization illegal.

The key members of the Islamic Movement Party (Dowlat Othman, Seyyed Ibrahim Gedayyev, Mohammad Sharif Hemmat Zadeh) wrote a letter to Tajikistan’s High Council (the parliament) and requested the legalization of the party by referring to the activities of Moscow’s Islamic Revival Party. The letter was placed on the parliament’s agenda, but was opposed by the members of the parliament each time it was raised.[25] In their speeches, the members of the parliament warned against the danger of Islam entering politics. An important point was the position of Haji Akbar Tourzhanzadeh, the director of Tajikistan’s Religious Department who had also become a member of the parliament. At the time, he opposed the legalization of the Islamic Movement Party arguing that the time had not arrived for the establishment of such an institution.[26]

In the aftermath of the 19-21 August coup staged by the Communists against Gorbachev, the then Tajik ruling elite and president Qahhar Mohkamov supported the Communists and opposed Gorbachev and the reformists. The failed coup and the re-emergence of Gorbachev (although for a short period of time) encouraged Gorbachev supporters, Democrats, nationalists, and Islamists, to enter the scene against the Communist Party. In Tajikistan, this protest took the form of a two-week gathering that began towards the end of September 1991 and ended in October 1991. The attendants asked for the resignation of Qahhar Mohkamov and raised other demands. Given the popular support for the demonstration staged for the first time against the parliament, the demands of the Islamic Movement Party were raised. Qahhar Mohkamov was forced to resign and the Tajik parliament (although primarily made up of Communist coup supporters) voted for the legalization of the Islamic Movement Party on 7 October 1991. Given the support extended to the Islamic Movement Party it officially became the focus of coalition formed against the government. Three powers contributed to the rise to power of the Islamic Movement Party.[27]

First was the activities of Seyyed Abdollah Nouri in the 70s and 80s in the context of forming religious circles.[28]

Seyyed Abdollah Nouri had gathered Muslim activists in Qur’an and religious classes (which were illegal in those days). Each member was responsible to form his own religious circle aimed at teaching Qur’an and religious principles. Nouri was arrested in 1973 and exiled to Qurghan Tappeh. He continued his activities while in exile and created numerous religious circles in southern Tajikistan. In 1986 he was arrested alongside many members of the religious circles. He was convicted for listening to foreign broadcasts, and following up on events in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the thoughts of Imam Khomeini [p] and reform of the official Islam in the then Soviet Union. He was imprisoned and spent his prison term in Dushanbe (6 months), Qurghan Tappeh (6 months), Tashkent (6 months), and Siberia (4 months). He was released upon Gorbachev’s pardon of political prisoners and returned to Tajikistan. His return coincided with the upturn in the process of reform and the formation of political and Islamic parties in the former Soviet Union. In the aftermath of subsequent developments in Tajikistan and the onset of the civil war, Nouri became the leader of Tajiksitan’s Islamic Movement Party.

Second was the politicization of the Religious Department. The Religious Department was in charge of Muslims’ religious concerns and undertook the appointment of Mosque speakers, Friday prayer leaders, and the organization of Hajj pilgrimage (which happened rarely). This department was itself a branch of Central Asia’s Religious Affairs Administration that was headquartered in Tashkent. All religious activities targeted at the region’s Muslims were planned there.

The Director of the Religious Department was considered leader of Tajikistan’s Muslims and represented them domestically and internationally. In the then Soviet period, the Religious Department represented official Islam and was recognized as a partner of the KGB. In 1989, the young and promising Haji Akbar Tourzhanzadeh, who came from an influential religious family, became the director of the Department. He drew on the political freedom accorded during perestroika to attract the attention of the populace.

As the head of the Religious Department, Haji Akbar Tourzhanzadeh established links with many Islamic countries and by attracting financial support, he renovated mosques throughout Tajikistan. Due to his efforts, the Imam Termezi University, the sole contemporary Islamic university in Tajikistan, was founded.[29]

In the 1990 elections of Tajikistan’s parliament, Haji Akbar Tourzhanzadeh was elected as member of parliament and played an important role in legalizing religious ceremonies (eid-ul fitr and eid-ul Qurban) and other religious occasions. As mentioned previously he was in no way linked to the Islamic Movement Party and rejected its legalization at the parliament. Haji Akbar Tourzhanzadeh later joined ranks with the nationalist and Islamic forces and was forced to leave Tajikistan upon the outbreak of the civil war. He joined a new organization known as the All Tajikistan Islamic Movement, which opposed the then government. After the restoration of peace, he was selected as the deputy of the Islamic Movement Party, but was set aside after a dispute with the leadership of the Party over the selection of the presidential candidate.

Third was the social activism of the Sufis. The Sufi clerics in Tajikistan were considered as descendants of the Prophet [p] and were known as “Ishan.” During the Soviet period they had adopted an attitude of isolation and thus had their own students to whom they taught Islamic principles. Their non-Ishan students would later assume religious responsibilities in their own towns. The Sheikhs were respected by the general population, either in their relationship with the Department of Religion or with regard to independent religious movements.

During the political and social developments of the 1990s, the Sufis became active alongside the Islamic Movement Party and the reformists and finally opposed the government. The presence of the Sufi clerics among demonstrators and their participation in hunger strikes was considered as a great support extended to the society’s democratic movement in general, and Islamic movement in particular.[30]

Subsequent to the resignation of Qahhar Mohkamov, the new presidential election of Tajikistan was held on 24 November 1991. Dowlat Khodanazarov, the candidate of the Democratic-Islamist coalition won 30% of the votes and Rahman Nabiev the Communist candidate won the elections with 54% of the votes. The reformists accused the communists of having rigged the elections. The communists that had a majority in the parliament attempted to ratify laws in order to limit the Democratic-Islamist coalition. In the aftermath of these developments, the government and the opposition (Democrats and Islamists) entered a new period of confrontation. Subsequent to the trial of Dushanbe’s mayor and Tajikistan’s Minister of Interior for bringing Lenin’s statute down, serious confrontation between the government and the opposition forces that supported the mayor and the Minister of Interior erupted.[31]

On 26 March 1992, the opposition staged a demonstration in the Martyrs’ Square across the Presidential Offices. The demonstrators grew in number day by day and an atmosphere of violence reigned. As the supporters of the parliament entered the Freedom Square across the parliament, heavy clashes were unleashed. At this point, Russian military forces stationed in the city of Dushanbe intervened and put an end to the conflict. On 11 May 1992 Nabiev agreed to form a national reconciliation government and Othman, deputy of the Islamic Movement Party was selected as the Prime Minister of Tajikistan.

The demonstration that had started on 26 March came to an end after 50 days on May 14th. The opponents of the coalition government that had gathered in the Freedom Square were armed. They left the city after the formation of the coalition government and attacked various Qurghan Tappeh regions where many supporters of Islamic or Democratic forces resided. The backlash of this move ignited the flame of civil war and led to the fall of the coalition government on 11 December subsequent to heavy clashes in the city of Dushanbe. Ali Rahmanev was selected as the Speaker of the Parliament at the Extraordinary Session of the parliament. He entered Dushanbe with the help of Russian and Uzbek forces and assumed power.

After the fall of the national coalition government, the Democratic and Islamic forces were declared illegal and their leaders were prosecuted. War, terror, and massacre spread throughout the country. A great number of coalition leaders, including the leaders of the Islamic Movement Party left Afghanistan and took refuge in Afghanistan, Russia, and other countries of Central Asia.[32]

Muslim forces, including Party members or independent individuals, who succeeded to reach Afghanistan agreed to dissolve the Islamic Movement Party and create Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement, which would include all Muslims. In this new organization, Abdollah Nouri was selected as president and Tourzhanzadeh became first deputy. Mohammad Sharif Hemmat Zadeh became the deputy of Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement and initiated armed struggle against the Tajik government from the Afghan soil.[33]

Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement invited all Democratic and independent forces to unite against the central government. They reorganized some of their former unified forces as United Tajikistan’s Opposition (UTO) force and adopted a single stance towards the Tajik government that led to peace negotiations between the opposition and the government in April 1994.

Seyyed Abdollah Nouri was the leader of the alliance of the UTO forces throughout the civil war and headed the national reconciliation commission in charge of restoring peace and implementing peace agreements in Tajikistan. He writes: “The end of the destructive and devastating fratricide that according to most historical accounts started in 1992 came on 27 June 1997. This war lasted for a total of 1880 days.

Compared to the Second World War, which will enter its 56th anniversary in May 2001 and lasted 1440 days, the civil war is considered as one of the longest wars in history. According to official figures 60,000 Tajiks were dispatched to the front in WWII and lost their lives, yet no one was forced out of their homes, their belongings were not destroyed, villagers, peasants and defenseless people were not bombed, wives and daughters were not raped, and nowhere did armed men inflict harm on ordinary people.

Unfortunately in the Tajik civil war, the smell of gunpowder still fills the air. Over 100,000 young men were killed and hundreds of villages were ruined. More than a million and a half Tajiks left their homes to protect their lives. More than 25,000 wives lost their husbands and thousands of children were left orphan.”[34]

Nouri notes that the peace negotiations that started on 5 April 1994 and ended on 27 June 1997 lasted for 1179 days and it was only after the signing of the general agreement that both sides officially declared the end of the peace process.

Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement was considered as UTO’s main arm during the war, during the peace negotiations and in the implementation phase. It was only during the implementation of the peace that the parties forming the opposition could register at the Ministry of Justice in order to restart their activities. The Islamic Movement Party began its activities again and held its general session on 18 September 1999 after six years of being banned. Seyyed Abdollah Nouri was selected as the leader and Tourzhanzadeh assumed the position of first deputy. The members of the Central Council then began their official political activities.

The Islamic Movement Party had two political stages ahead in this new phase. First was the presidential election and second was Tajikistan’s new parliamentary election, which would mark the official end of the general peace agreement process.

For the presidential election, the Islamic Movement Party announced the candidacy of Othman. This move faced the objection of Tourezhanzadeh as he believed that at that stage the party did not have much chance to outvote Rahmanev (president). He argued that it was not in the best interest of the party to challenge the president. Yet the party had already selected its independent candidate on the basis of member votes and it was argued that winning the election was not the point. The point was to establish a certain political presence and this necessitated that a candidate be introduced. As a result of this difference Tourezhanzadeh supported Rahmanev in an official interview and was expelled from the Party’s central council.

Tajikistan’s election followed various political tensions as a result of it being boycotted by all parties, including the Islamic Movement Party and was finally held on 6 November 1999. Rahmanev claimed victory with 98% of the votes.[35]

The second political challenge was the parliament’s election on the basis of the general peace agreement. The election’s mechanism was such that out of 63 members, the parties had a 30% quota (22 candidates) and independent candidates constituted 70% of the total (41 candidates). Parliament election was held on 27 February 2000 and the Islamic Movement Party secured 7.8% of the overall quota (2 candidates). Differences inside the opposition camp and the separate participation of the opposition parties in the election together with the rifts inside the Islamic Movement Party caused the opposition to become a minority in the parliament whereas it had succeeded to secure 30% of the power share during the peace process.[36]

Once the parliament convened and the peace negotiation officially ended, the two opposition groups of Islamic Movement Party led by Seyyed Abdollah Nouri and the Democratic Party led by Mohammad Rouzi Eskandarev remained as Tajikistan’s legal parties.

Uzbekistan’s Islamic Movement

Similar to Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party, Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement involved Uzbek forces that had familiarized themselves with the Soviet Islamic Revival Party with the only difference that upon the shaping of Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party a number of Uzbeks had joined it.[37]

Two individuals were extremely influential in Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement. First was Tahir Yuldashev who played a religious and intellectual role and second was Jom’eh Bainamangani who was a military commander. Bainamangani was killed during the American raids in Afgahnistan. Another influential player is Mohammad Sadegh who is a cleric living in Lybia and Saudi Arabia.[38]

Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement never succeeded in establishing itself politically. It was considered as a terrorist movement and incurred considerable credibility crisis.

The military forces of Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement were placed under the command of Jom’eh Bainamangani and were involved in the Tajik civil war, siding with Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party. Their slogan was “First Tajikistan, Then Uzbekistan.” 500 of Jom’eh Bainamangani’s forces were fighting against Tajikistan’s government forces. After the signing of the peace agreement between the Tajik government and opposition forces, the Tajik opposition was absorbed into that country’s military structure, yet the Uzbeks were left in the cold and had to retreat from areas formerly occupied by Tajik opposition forces.

The Uzbek Islamic movement expected support from Tajikistan’s Islamic Movement Party and especially from the person of Abdollah Nouri, but this was not possible. Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement forces tried to enter the Furghana valley through Tajikistan’s soil but encountered the Uzbek army. Uzbekistan’s army had mined its border with Tajikistan, closed its borders with Tajikistan, and conducted air raids against Uzbek Islamic forces in the Uzbek soil.

Uzbekistan had closed all of Tajikistan’s communication routes to the outside world and thus exerted heavy economic pressure on that country. Naturally, the government put pressure on the Islamic Movement Party, Mr. Abdollah Nouri, and Commander Mirza Zia who led the former Opposition Alliance Forces to expel Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement forces from the Tajik territory.

A main issue regarding Uzbekistan’s Islamic forces stationed in Tajikistan was that the families of the forces and numerous civilians had fled from Uzbekistan to Tajikistan and had settled there. The raids of the Uzbek jetfighters against refugee camp had created a difficult situation for the Tajik government. The agreement reached in early June 1999 between the Tajik president and Mr. Nouri stipulated the exit of the Uzbek Islamic movement forces from the Tajik territory. Civilians could still remain as refugees in Tajikistan. In a visit by the UN Envoy in Refugee Affairs to the Uzbek refugee camps their number was reported at 1600 Uzbeks who had filed for political asylum.[39]

Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement forces entered Afghanistan with the help of Tajikistan’s Emergency Situations Minister who was previously the Commander of Tajikistan’s opposition forces. The point worth noting is that these forces entered Afghanistan officially under Taliban’s supervision and crossed the borders that were guarded by Russian soldiers.

The official exit of Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement forces from Tajik territory did not mark the end of the ordeal as they reentered Tajikistan clandestinely and moved towards the Furghana Valley. This time the Tajik Islamic Movement claimed that it had no relation whatsoever with the Uzbek Islamists and had already intervened for their exit from Tajikistan and if they have re-entered the Tajik territory, the Russian border guards should be held responsible first and then the Tajik government should assume responsibility for the presence of Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement in Tajikistan.

This claim made by the Tajik is especially important and it was not just a political position. There were many proofs for this claim, first was the extreme position taken by Tahir Yuldashev and Jom’eh Bainamangani against Abdollah Nouri, accusing him of having betrayed Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement by reaching a peace agreement; second was the link between the Taliban and Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement. Jom’eh Bainamangani was selected by Mullah Omar as Central Asia’s emir and this in itself created differences between Tajikistan’s and Uzbekistan’s Islamic movements. Third was the complicated way in which Russian forces handled the Uzbek Islamic forces in their interests as the presence of these forces put the Karimov regime under pressure. Karimov supported the dissident colonel Mahmood Khodabardiev. Khodabardiev was previously the commander of Tajikistan’s special regiment. After his revolt failed, he fled to Uzbekistan and attacked the northern regions of Tajikistan twice and even succeeded in occupying Khojand for a short period of time. Observers in political and security quarters argued that Rahmanev secretly supports Jom’eh Bainamangani’s move towards Uzbekistan and used it as Tajikistan’s pressure lever against Khodabardiev’s attacks against Tajikistan.[40]

Uzbekistan blamed the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan for a number of bombing and terrorist incidents. This is while the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan has not accepted any responsibility and attributed the events to the popular resistance against government’s suppressive tactics. But one of the important operations that the movement became involved in was the operations led by Jom’eh Bainamangani on 6 August 1999 in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan which links the three countries of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.[41]

In this operation a military group led by Jom’eh Bainamangani entered Batken from Tajikistan and took a number of Kyrgyz soldiers as hostage and freed them in exchange for a $50,000 ransom. After the freedom of the soldiers, the Kyrgyz Army announced that it has expelled Jom’eh Bainamangani’s forces from the region. But another hostage-taking incident followed and one Kyrgyz together with four Japanese Geologists were taken as hostages.

The incident lasted for two months and it became clear that the Kyrgyz Army could not confront the hostage takers. The Uzbek government asked to intervene directly to bring the incident to an end. This request was rejected by the Kyrgyz government; nonetheless the Kyrgyz bombarded the alleged location of the hostage-takers aerially, killing and wounding a number of Kyrgyz civilians. The outcome of the operations increased tension in the region and finally the Japanese hostages were freed once the government of Japan paid 6 million dollars.[42]

The acceptance of money by Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement dealt a heavy blow to its credibility, placing them in the same category as terrorist groups. The movement’s social base and political objective became thus questionable.

Another damage to the credibility of Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement came as result of its ties with the Taliban[43] and the fact that Jom’eh Bainamangani was appointed by the latter as Central Asia’s emir. That meant that Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement pursued their activities under the direction of the Taliban which meant that the Uzbek Islamic movement lacked a genuine political objective. Naturally, such a force could easily lose its social basis, which would translate to its political elimination. Although the group was able to conduct a number of military operations, it lacked the ability to influence politico-social trends. After the freedom of the hostages, the group had to confront the military attacks of the Kyrgyz and Uzbek forces and after incurring human losses, the Uzbek Islamic movement forces retreated to Tajikistan and then to Afghanistan.

One year later the group started a new round of military operations to the south of the Sarkhan Province. A small group was sent to the vicinity of the capital in order to start operations. But as the Uzbek security forces were ready and security arrangements had already taken shape in the region among Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, the operations failed and the Uzbek Islamic movement forces retreated to Afghanistan.[44]

The Uzbek Islamic movement had already established ties with the Taliban and trained their forces in Taliban bases and stood by them against anti-Taliban groups (Northern Alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masoud). They received financial aid from the Al Qaeda network led by bin Laden.[45]

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 and the American military attacks against the Taliban, Jom’eh Bainamangani was killed and Tahir Yuldashev, the intellectual leader of the movement, was forced into hiding in Afghanistan and Pakistan alongside other Taliban leaders.

Islamic Hizb-ul Tahrir

Islamic Hizb-ul Tahrir is the third Islamic movement in Central Asia that is basically active in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Hizb-ul Tahrir is considered as a political party, yet it is more of an ideological movement and its priority is religious propagation and the strengthening of the members’ beliefs.

Hizb-ul Tahrir is a supranational trend and does not limit itself to any national system. This party was founded in 1953 by Taghi-aldin al-Nabhani in Jerusalem as an offshoot of Ikwhanul Muslimin. Al-Nahbhani was a graduate of Alazhar University, lecturer at religious school and judge at the Saifa and Jerusalem courts.

Al-Nahbhani had written two books on Islamic States and Nizam-ul Hikam fi Islam. There he has elaborated on his views on Islamic government and its characteristics. He referred to Qur’anic verses (Al-i Umran: 104) to argue that the training of the leaders of the struggle against impurity is of utmost importance.

The raison d’etre of Hizb-ul Tahrir from the viewpoint of Al-Nahbhani was to propagate the Islamic ideology and to revive the Islamic Ummah in the fight against infidelity and freedom from oppressive ideas and laws. He had divided the activities of the party into three stages. Education and familiarity with genuine Islamic thought is the first step. The second stage was nation-building through interaction with the people so that an Islamic society can take shape.

The third stage was the formation of a government ruled by Muslim’s Caliph and the heir to the Prophet [p].

The party claims that its activities are adapted from the Prophet’s lifestyle in Mecca and Medina. According to Al-Nahbhani the only way to revive Islamic life and Islamic government is to propagate the Islamic message throughout the world as Islam has been sent to save the whole humanity. To begin with, activities can take shape and start from a single geographical point, i.e., an Arab country, and then it could spread throughout the world wherever the movement’s followers were.

The activities of Hizb-ul Tahrir in Central Asia are concentrated in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The leadership of the party is in the hiding but the lower organizational levels are active openly and the followers freely disclose their association with the party. This is why a larger number of members have been arrested in Uzbekistan and a smaller group is detained in Tajikistan.

Hizb-ul Tahrir defends itself against the allegations of the Uzbek government to the effect that it had a role in the bombings and considers its movement primarily political and ideological. They do consider Islam Karimov’s regime as being corrupt and anti-Islamic and have clearly stated that it seeks to create an Islamic government, yet it has condemned terrorist moves and notes that unless the ummah becomes thoroughly righteous it will not be possible to form an Islamic government.

Hizb-ul Tahrir rejects Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement and criticizes its agreement with Tajikistan’s government as allowing infidelity. From Hizb-ul Tahrir’s point of view the Muslims must first pave the way for the emergence of the Islamic government and their participation in non-Islamic government is not called for.

Membership in Hizb-ul Tahrir does not depend on gender, ethnic group, language, or any other basis of difference among men. The only condition for the members is being Muslim and accepting the party’s agenda and plans. Women and men hold sessions separately and organizational links between men and women will have to be sanctioned religiously.

As the leadership of the party is in the hiding in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan there is no way to document the relationship of the members with the organization and party agenda. Main information is obtained from party’s court sessions. A number of books have also been published and there is an Internet site wherein the main principles of the party and ideological and political agenda of this organization are laid out. The young members seek to become “true” Muslims by studying the party’s pamphlets and educational materials. It is fairly easy for the security apparatus to locate them but the higher circles cannot be easily identified. This is because the outer rings of the members must try to perform their duties with regard to other social members and this is why a large number of young members have been easily identified and jailed in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Unlike Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement party, Hizb-ul Tahrir has not been classified as a terrorist group by the US Department of State as it denounces violence and pursues its objective through educational means and activities.

The Uzbek government, however, considers it as a terrorist and illegal group, claiming that the party’s budget is provided for in Jordan and in other Islamic countries so that they can topple Uzbekistan’s government. The party is declared illegal in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well.

Dr. Omran Vahid the spokesman of the party lives in London and has announced that while the party members are active in Uzbekistan in creating socio-political changes, no one denies that they are against Karimov and are seeking to bring him down; but this does not imply that the party will adopt violent measures in order to secure its objectives. He adds that the Uzbek people and party supporters in Central Asia just want to form a government based on Islamic criteria.[46]

In some regions of Tajikistan regional governments arrest party members claiming that they are countering Hizb-ul Tahrir and this is still one of the problems that lingers in the aftermath of the peace agreement. The party is aware that other members from other organizations can infiltrate its ranks.

Although it is claimed that the party is mostly influential in Uzbekistan and is challenging Karimov’s regime, the fact remains that the party does not limit itself to that objective and argues that a single Islamic government must be formed throughout Central Asia and even if this objective seems unattainable today, the party can start on a smaller scale (regardless of the country), and in a region such as the Furghana Valley.

Hizb-ul Tahrir is illegal in Kyrgyzstan but is not as heavily suppressed as in Uzbekistan and its members are not as heavily penalized.[47] The Kyrgyz authorities believe that they cannot eliminate the party since the imprisonment of its members has not deterred other people from joining it. So the challenge will be to slow down the growth of the party and this can be done by creating more awareness among the general population about the advantages of modern life.

In 1999, Islam Karimov had declared that idea must be responded with idea, yet he never brought his own idea to the fore when it came to dealing with Hizb-ul Tahrir and it seems that it subscribes to the Russian saying that “with power there is no need fro brain.” This it the basic attitude of the regional governments that seek to confront ideas with force; they too concede, however, that they have chosen this path as they have no new ideas to offer.

Comparison of Islamic Movements in Central Asia

Given the above account of the activities of Tajikistan’s Islamic movement, Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement, and Hizb-ul Tahrir, it can be maintained that out of the three only Tajikistan’s movement has been able to emerge as a legal party in the politics of Central Asia. The other two movements still exist. However, Uzbekistan’s Islamic movement suffered setbacks due to the hostage taking incident and the military operations that led to its categorization as a terrorist group. The death of its major military commander in Afghanistan dealt a heavy blow to that movement and therefore, it is hard to predict a political future for the Uzbek Islamic movement, especially in light of its link with the Taliban. On the other hand, although a large number of the members of Hizb-ul Tahrir are detained, the party is still able to pursue its political agenda without being classified as a terrorist outfit. Yet the objective of the party is to establish a region-wide Islamic government and given the scope of this agenda, it does not seem that the party will be able to change the political geography of the region and it is likely that it will remain as a Salafi movement.

But Tajikistan’s Islamic movement has put a civil war behind and has been able to strike a balance with the various forces in Tajikistan and can provide a suitable model for Islamic activities in Central Asia. This does not mean, however, that the party did not make any mistake or that its future is certain. The assertion is that given the complexities of the Central Asian region, it seems that Tajikistan’s Islamic movement has acted more sensibly and has distanced itself from extremist Salafi tendencies. Were we to categorize this movement, we could safely say that it is nearer to Islamic Revolution in Iran and Jama’at Islami in Pakistan as it seeks solutions on the basis of Islamic principles.

Tajikistan’s Islamic movement separated itself from the Taliban in Afghanistan, or the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan and has accepted Tajikistan’s constitution as a basis of movement in the context of a national government. Thus the movement has established itself as an experienced organization in Centrla Asia.

Tajikistan’s Islamic movement is still faced with serious challenges that it must overcome in order to become a credible order and model in Central Asia. The two most important challenges are the presidential and parliamentary elections posing serious obstacles on the path of the movement.

For instance, some of the members will still be prosecuted for their activities prior to national reconciliation. Although no serious action has been taken against the movement’s members, but the charges might lead to the party towards reaction and even inaction during the critical election times.

Another challenge is the confrontation between the older and the new generations; and yet a third major challenge is the absence of a clear political agenda. The party is mainly is active in Tajikistan and the leadership of the movement believes that given the state of Islamic movements in the post-September 11 movements, it is still very fortunate for Tajikistan’s Islamic movement to exist at all. However, the absence of a clear political agenda is considered as the movement’s main weakness.

[1] For additional information on Islamic revival see A. Morad, Hamid algar et. al., The Revival Movement in the Islamic World, translated by Seyyed Mohammad Mehdi Jafari (Tehran: Intishar Publications, 1983).

[2] The categorization made by Hamid Enayat in his book entitled Political Thought in Contemporary Islam, translated by Bahaeddin Khorramshahi (Tehran: Kharazmi Publications, 1983).

[3] See Olivier Roy, The Defeat of Political Islam, translated by Abdolkarim Khorram (Pishawar: Sahar, 1995).

[4] This expression has been adapted from Political Thought in Contemporary Islam by Hamid Enayat.

[5] Ali Asghar Faghihi, Wahhabis (Tehran: Saba Publications, 1973), First Edition, p. 20.

[6] Ramadhan al-Buthi, Salafieh Bedaat, translated by Hassan Saberi (Mashhad: Astan Qods Razavi, 1993), p. 277.

[7] Ibid., p. 277.

[8] Ibid., p. 279.

[9] Ibid., p. 16.

[10] Hamid Enayat, Political Thought in Contemporary Islam, pp. 78-80.

[11] Olivier Roy, The Political Defeat of Islam, pp. 141-143.

[12] Ibid., p. 142.

[13] Ibid., p. 138.

[14] Ibid., p. 139.

[15] Hamid Enayat, Political Thought in Contemporary Islam, p. 182.

[16] Ibid., p. 183.

[17] Ibid., p. 178.

[18] Ibid., p. 179.

[19] In Tajikistan edited by Larisa Nikolayva. He approves the Soviet suppression of the Basmachis.  Larisa Nikolayva, Tajikistan, translated by Safa Ikhwan (Tehran: Diplomacy History and Document Center, 2001).

[20] Stephan A. Dudoignon, Tajikistan: The Trials of Independence, edited by Mohammad Reza Djalili and Shirin Akiner (London: Curzon Press, 1998)., p. 63.

[21] Ibid. p. 64.

[22] Ibid. p. 65.

[23] Shamsul Haq Nour, Islamic and Islamic Movement in Contemporary Tajikistan (Tehran: Islamic Revolution Literature Office, 1995), pp. 72-73.

[24] Shadman Yousif, Tajikistan: Price of Freedom (Tehran: Islamic Culture Propagation Office), pp. 66-71.

[25] Shamsul Haq Nour, Islamic & Islamic Movement in Contemporary Tajikistan, p. 73.

[26] Ibid. p. 93.

[27] Ibid. p. 74.

[28] The life of Abdollah Nouri is covered in: Mohammad Ali Ajami, Nour Imprisoned (Tehran: Ahl-e Qalam, 1997).

[29] Shamsul Haq Nour, Islamic and Islamic Movement in Contemporary Tajikistan, pp. 92-94.

[30] Ibid. p. 95.

[31] See: Shadman Yousif, Tajikistan: Price of Freedom; Safar Ali Kanjayev, Tajikistan Exchanges, Tajiki, Published by Dushanbe, 3 volumes;  Asluddin Sahib Nazarov, Starkiller Morning, Tajiki, Published by Dushanbe, 2 volumes; Ibrahim Othmanev, Nabiev Years, Tajiki, Published by Dushanbe; Akbar Tourezhanzadeh, Between Fire and Blood, Tajiki, Published by Dushanbe.

[32] Shamsul Haq Nour, Islamic and Islamic Movement in Contemporary Tajikistan, p. 99.

[33] Ibid. p. 101.

[34] Seyyed Abdollah Nouri, Peace Accords, Tajiki, Published by Dushanbe, 2001, pp. 3-4.

[35] IRNA, Dushanbe, November 1999.

[36] IRNA, Dushanbe, March 2000.

[37] Olivier Roy (ed), Islam and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

[38] Eurasia: Conflicting Legacies (London: Frank Cass, 1995).

[39] Vahid Mojdeh, Afghanistan and Five Years of Taliban Oppression (Pishawar: Meyvand, 2002), p. 55.

[40] Ibid. p. 53.

[41]Voice of Freedom Radio Broadcast, 16 July 1999.

[42] International Crisis (ICG) Central Asia, Islamic Mobilization and Regional Security, ICG Asia Report, No. 14, March 2001, pp. 18-21.

[43] Ibid. p. 5.

[44] Ibid. p. 5.

[45] Vahid Mojdeh, Afghanistan and Five Years of Taliban Oppression, p. 57

[46] Central Asia, Islamic Mobilization and Regional Security, ICG Asia Report, p. 8.

[47] Information on Hizb-ul Tahrir can be found on;; Other materials have been gathered from publications in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and the party’s own announcements.


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