Journal Article

Shaping an Islamic Identity: Religion, Islamism, and the State in Central Asia

T. Jeremy Gunn

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 64, issue 3, pages 389-410
Published in print January 2003 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2003 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Shaping an Islamic Identity: Religion, Islamism, and the State in Central Asia

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The vast majority of Central Asians consider Islam to be part of their social identity — as it has been for centuries. Yet seventy years of official Soviet atheism decimated Islamic institutions of learning, leaving both imams and the population largely unfamiliar with traditional Islamic teachings. There is now a struggle within the five formerly Soviet republics of Central Asia between Islamists and governments to reconstruct an Islam and to capture the allegiance of the populace. Central Asia is not now engaged in a clash of its Islamic civilization with a Christian West or an Orthodox North — and far less a Confucian East. Rather, it is struggling to construct its own Islamic identity (or identities) on the foundation of a glorious ancient past, a harsh recent past, and a bleak economic and political future. This paper discusses the different aspects of religion in Central Asia (including Sunni Islam of the Hanafi school, Sufism, Shi'ism, “popular Islam,” and Islamism), and describes political efforts to control (or “manage”) religion — particularly the “Islamist threat.” Such governmental efforts, however, appear to be exacerbating the very Islamist threat that they seek to contain.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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