Soviet and Post-Soviet Discourses on Islam: A Comparative Study of Uzbekistan
Riyaz Ahmad Sheikh
The present study is an unpretentious attempt to delve the two discourses on Islam, during the two epochs, Soviet colonization, and Post-Soviet authoritarianism in the diminutive part of the globe none other than Uzbekistan. The study will highlight the Marxist-Leninist discourse on religion in general and Islam in particular. The second part delineates the Karimov’s authoritarian regime with special refernce to his discourse on Islam. The study is comparative in this sense that before independence, Islam under Soviet rule was suppressed and Muslims were persecuted, questions, was it by nature to suppress and persecute or something was lying in the ideologies of two groups (Muslins and Atheists). In the aftermath of the Soviet disintegration in 1991, Uzbekistan emerged as Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan found herself in a situation that was alarmingly challenging. First and the foremost challenge in front of nascent State was to re-introduce the age old Islamic culture and identity and do so in a fashion that would not be against the present demands and challenges. Initially Karimov sporadically has used Islamic symbolism to stabilize his political position, but the external and internal impellents obliged him to divert his attitude and discourse on Islam. There was hue and cry for Islamic revivalism in the Republic of Uzbekistan, which directly or indirectly laid its adversarial impact on Religious freedom in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Karimov believed that the Islamic activities is an ideological and political threat and warns that Islamic freedom is trying to destabilize his regime. The clash of ideology was more or less correct, while studying the Soviet discourse and Post-Soviet discourse on Islam in Uzbekistan. President Karimov. Karimov’s communist background and the policies he has followed, cause him to be criticized as a hypocrite and apostate (Olcott 1996, 117). After independence, Karimov strategically embarked upon public efforts to construct an image as a ‘Muslim’ leader sympathetic of Islamic rituals (i.e. taking oath on the Qur’an, making pilgrimage to Mecca, establishing an Islamic university, and instituting an Islamic TV channel).) Karimov government had an instrumentalist view of religion. Religious expressions were encouraged where they contribute to the goal of nation-building and legitimization of the dominant power coalitions as defined by the power holders.
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