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Authoritarian regimes compete with the religious opposition ...
Alexey Malashenko
According to official data, 58 million people live in the five republics of Central Asia. About 75% are Muslims. Politicians talk about the threat of radical Islam. About this talked with Professor Alexei Malashenko correspondent "Oasis" Tahir Chizhov.

Does this threat exist? If so, what is it?

There are several points. The first point is that Islamic radicalism, in principle, is natural for any Muslim region and Central Asia is no exception. Secondly, after the collapse of the USSR and the events that took place thereafter, a considerable part of society is in a state of disbelief and disillusionment in the former Soviet Union and in what was called democracy in authoritarian regimes. The third and one of the main, financial situation, the constant and widespread deterioration of living standards. Naturally, all this suggests the existence of some alternative that can stand up to former communism and present-day authoritarianism. Hence the belief in an Islamic alternative. It is possible that Islam, if followed, is able to solve all the problems. Both the Koran and the Shari'a set forth the foundations of society that satisfy everyone. In the societies of the countries of Central Asia, the features of traditionalism are becoming more and more obvious, experts agree that there is a process of demodernization. Naturally, in these conditions, the role of this traditional component - Islam, is increasing. And we know that throughout the Muslim world, social protest in a concentrated form is always expressed through Islam. If we add to this that authoritarianists are persecuting the secular opposition everywhere, then naturally there is no other way out, like religion. Again, this does not mean that everyone is running around and looking for this Islamic alternative. But a small part of society is really ready to fight for this alternative. And, returning to what I said - most of it, believes that there is a solution to their problems in Islam.

There is such a feature. Hizb ut-Tahrir, the IMU, the IRPT have an areola of martyrs. Members of these parties are persecuted, persecuted by their families. And because of this, a certain element of sympathy in society, one way or another, takes a religious form.

How do you think radicalism can be fought?

Among Islamists there are a variety of directions. Personally, I share the four levels of Islamists. The first level is the Muslim dissidents. They can be anywhere: in Kazan, and in Moscow. Further conversations "in the kitchen" their struggle does not go. The second level is when they begin to create organizations, parties, talk about the need for Sharia, but everything is within the law. The third level is open discontent with the existing system, device manifestations, demonstrations. But the fourth level is when people are already taking up arms.

From my point of view, a dialogue should be conducted with all three levels. So far there is no such dialogue, but it is necessary so that these “kitchen dissidents” do not rise to the fourth level. This is the first. Secondly, I believe that, as a trend (ideological and political), Islamism will participate in the legal political life of Central Asia, as it does in Tajikistan. In general, as world practice shows, where there are legal Islamists in the institutions of power, the question of fundamentalism is less worthwhile. I believe that dialogue should begin sooner or later. Otherwise, the illegal struggle with existing regimes will intensify. And on the other hand, I do not exclude the fact that Islamists can use other political forces as a means in their own interests. And Islam as a tool is very convenient. And here it is very interesting to see how events will unfold in Kyrgyzstan.

Are the harsh methods that the official authorities of the countries of the region, primarily Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, are fighting with Islamic currents of any levels adequate?

I can understand that they are quite hard on the followers of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but probably there should be some kind of secular opposition. It's impossible to crush everyone! In addition, radical parties such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU are very well adapted to pressure. I think that Islamism, as a phenomenon, is objectively natural. Another thing is to make these people a legitimate part of society and its political life. Take a look at turkey. There is, in fact, an Islamist prime minister and nothing. In Yemen, the same situation. And no one is going to run with the scimitar. And if they were all crushed, then there would be a lot of trouble. The very idea of ​​Islamism is not a monolith that looms over the whole world. There are various representatives and with many it is possible and necessary to conduct constructive communication.

What are the problems of establishing this constructive communication?

The fact is that the post-Soviet regimes are fixated on the fact that it is impossible to share power. And when opposition arises, when the authorities are criticized for the non-fulfillment of basic social duties, they perceive it painfully. And since both parasitize on the same phraseology (if Hizb ut-Tahrir is replaced with the word Islam, it is very similar to Karimov’s speeches: firm power, social justice, the struggle for our cultural heritage, and so on. d), then, in fact, they call for the same thing. And it puts them in great competition with each other. And I believe that the pressure under these regimes on these parties will continue.

Do you think radicals can win in some Central Asian country? And if so, where and under what circumstances?

The Islamic revolution is possible only with extreme aggravation of the situation. But in the near future I do not see her. In Uzbekistan, it is not, because the government has not yet exhausted itself. In Tajikistan, the IRPT became victims of their own compromise. They seem to be in power, but they seem to be in opposition. And paradoxically, I can foresee some kind of “explosion” in Turkmenistan, after the death of Turkmenbashi. Turkmen society is very similar to Afghan rigidity and conservatism. And they will need some kind of ideology after Niyazov leaves. I personally can not imagine what!? There is no democracy, no nationalism. It remains archaic Islam, which from everyday life, for some time can break out into a political one.

Alexey Malashenko
Professor, Doctor of Historical Sciences,
Member of the Scientific Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center,
The author of eleven books, an expert in the field of Islam.
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