«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»

Muslim world in 21st century: Central Asian region


The problem of Central Asia and its civilized development, the question of a region’s culture and ways of its development has become especially important in recent years. Here there are new independent states are searching for ways of self-identification, self-realization as a distinctive and unique culture.

Central Asia is traditionally closely linked to the Islamic world, at the same time remaining distinctive and original culture. Islam was perceived and become an integral part of the identity of the peoples of the region. Moreover, the process was not one-sided, but mutual. Islam and Arab culture enriched the Turks, and the Turks, in their turn, developed this doctrine, which resulted in a new splendid culture, born in the synthesis of the Arab and Islamic world and the Turkish environment and method of world view.

Islam became a live soul of Turkic culture, defining the nature of Turkish attitude. Perfectly illustrates this thesis the existence of a noble tribe of the Kazakhs «kozha» that comes after khan’s family descendants of Genghis Khan «tore».

«Kozha» — descendants of Arab missionaries brought Islam to the steppe and surviving in this environment by virtue of the nature of nomadic tribal society. They became the Kazakhs, but their name connects them with the history, and increased respect for them itself speaks a special relationship to the people who brought the Faith. Turkic world involves a multitude of people with different customs and culture, and the different ways of organizing and economic life. For example, Uzbeks traditionally sedentary, inhabiting areas with irrigated agriculture. Kazakhs and Kyrgyz are nomads that generate a certain type of culture.
Hence, existing type and gravity of these cultures to the civilizational model becomes appropriate. Countries with a settled culture, such as Uzbekistan, are more inclined to Islamic civilization, the attraction to which they are much stronger than in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with their traditions and values of the nomadic culture.

These countries are less likely to consider themselves unconditionally oriented to Islamic culture because of the difference in their cultures from purely Islamic countries with the Arab population. This point is reinforced by the fact that in the Muslim world, as noted by the American scientist Samuel Huntington, there is no «core» state that could serve as a uniting point, a kind of Rome for Islamic culture.

The second point, which forms the civilizational identity of the peoples of Central Asia, is the thesis of a special civilization of Turkic world. The proximity of the Turkic peoples doubtless for many reasons: the language — all Turks speak related languages; cultural — elements of their cultures converge in many ways and, above all, they are characterized by similar epics, myths; historical — they are united by a common history, all these people came from the same root, and they were all united by the Soviet empire; economic — the economy during their life under the Soviet totalitarian system became intertwined, their cover of a unified infrastructure for them, etc.

The following integrative factors that distinguish them in some independent community are appropriate for these countries: common to all faith — Islam. Although not as widespread in all countries in the sense of a single strong commitment to its norms and dilute classical canons of faith elements of folk belief, Islam is among the main factors «relationship» in the region. Islam made a single element, expressed in the culture of all countries in the region, becoming one of the grounds for their traditions and culture: religious holidays, holy places of worship and Islamic ethics;
— brought by Islam Arab culture that was reflected in the writing. At least to mention the Soviet era was based on the Arabic script and is associated with the Qur’an and theology (and hence also the presence of pure Arabic words in modern Turkic languages). Islam and Arab culture associated with the names of prominent cultural figures, key personalities of world history, as al-Farabi and Khoja Ahmet Yasawi;
— fundamental kinship of all the Turkic peoples of Central Asian region, a particular cultural environment created by the language that varies from ethnic group to ethnic group not so much that it was impossible to understand each other, relatively late the allocation of modern ethnic groups that make up the Central Asian Turkic world, from common substrate;
— the recent past, related to the life in one country, perception of elements of Russian culture, language, close ties with Russia and relatively weak ties with other countries outside of the region (at least until these relationships are not formed).
When tagged factors proximity of the region, of course, there are also factors of separation. They lie in the area of politics and economics, put it as a contest, primarily for political leadership in the region and as a manifestation of political and economic problems. Sufficient homogeneity of the economies of Central Asia due to their wealth of natural resources and, consequently, their raw orientated exports raw makes them natural competitors in the market.

Another direction in which the line passes through the error, it is a different level of development of these countries: urbanization, the availability of powerful industrial and saving each layer of traditional values in society. In this sense, the weakest development of social systems and the lowest level of urbanization characteristic of the ethnic groups with settled culture. They are more fully retained its traditional elements. Explanation of this fact may be the following reasons:
— greater stability of sedentary culture to the outside influence in comparison with the nomadic, which for all its conservativeness is sensitive and responsive to new and subjected to severe erosion in the case of changes in living conditions;
— the complexity and high cost of development areas with difficult terrain, mostly mountainous, which is typical, for example, in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan;
— conscious preservation more or less intact, traditional social structures in southern areas during Soviet rule, because their economy was orientated on such kinds of production for which these structures were effective (for example, Uzbekistan, where the main crop is cotton).
Uneven development and uncertainty how to further develop the region becomes one of the major obstacles for new integrative tendencies. Holistic image of the region has not yet formed, still have not worked out the strategy and concept of its development as a new integrity. The current phase in the life of post-Soviet Central Asia, with fifty million population, still retains the old form of society.

The post-Soviet political and economic priorities are undeveloped, there are no clear geopolitical priorities, and therefore, the region still produces resource saved from the Soviet era. Unified development of the region as a civilized community and opening his contemporary unipolar world is impossible without solving these complex problems. Central Asia is a key region in communication between the two worlds, drinking water from two sources — the East and West. And it should fully reveal their special mission in the dynamics of world civilization process.

Islamic world is rightly proud of the greatest achievements in spiritual culture that gave it fame in the history of mankind and determined its rightful place in the rise of Islamic culture, literature and philosophy. Widespread and exhibited many centuries progressive development of Islamic spirituality expressed and enshrined in the sacred book of Islam — the Quran. It takes into its sphere many states and regions of the world. Kazakhstan is not an exception- the zone of traditional spread of Islam, which has a long history of introduction and spatial extension of its spiritual influence. Although we acknowledge that Kazakhstan, due to geopolitical conditions in a certain way «peripheral» to the epicenters of Islam area, yet we must emphasize that in its essential and universal features strengthened Islam in Kazakhstan.
Although it has undergone a transformation primarily related with the peculiarities of the economic and living conditions of nomadic Kazakh society. A specific feature of Islam as a worldview in Kazakhstan became a kind of syncretism with local traditions Tengrism.

Islam penetrated into the Kazakh steppe, without becoming the guiding principle of public life and politics, strengthened and established as part of the ideological orientation of the society, as a component of culture and an important aspect of religious and cult practice.
Islam’s worldview universals, especially in the sphere of morality, since the period of the penetration of Islam in the Kazakh steppe, and subsequently, reflected not only in everyday life, practical experience in humans, but also put it in the quest for the great thinkers of Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
It should be noted that over the Eurasian space forms the border between the two major world religions — Islam and Christianity. Thus, at first glance, the natural way of development of Kazakhstan is its entry into the organic Turkic-Islamic world, with which we have a common age-old national roots, language, traditions and customs.
However, unlike the other republics of Central Asia, it is unlikely that purely Muslim form will be dominated in the national culture of Kazakhstan. Since ancient times different religions peacefully coexisted in Kazakhstan’s steppe. Among of them there were older than Christianity and Buddhism, and the traditions of Tengrism by its significance to the common people were little to Islam.
Although, in southern Kazakhstan there is the tomb of honored throughout the Muslim world saint Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, where now dignitaries from the world often come to visit. In general we can say there is the ongoing Islamization of Kazakhstan. Certainly, in the long run it can be assumed that Islam will take in the spiritual life of Kazakhstan no less a place than Orthodoxy and catholicity in Russia today. However, as a possible basis for the national unity of society religion is a stabilizing factor only by recognition of majority of the population.
Certainly, religion like any other beliefs is not a kind of social evil. On the contrary, in the true sense of the word religion can play and often does play a positive role in the development of society. Thus, the Islamic faith in his time, in the era of its distribution on the territory of Kazakhstan, has had a positive impact on the consolidation of the Kazakh ethnic group, the formation of the Kazakh nation. This positive start religiosity related not only with a factor of only one external belonging of people to one or another big ideological group, but also with the internal installation of all true religion to the highest value of human life.

Therefore it is very important to study the deep compatibility issues religious and democratic values in the transformation process of the transit society. However, if religious world view or any particular religion begins opposed to other forms of human life or other formalized confessional associations, it creates, like every ideology certain threat to the spiritual and moral state security inside and outside.
Then we have the situation that is fraught with sharp opposition, open conflict, armed conflict, as it is today in many regions of the world, including in the Central Asian region. Almost all the newly independent states in Central Asia belong to the category of «Muslim countries».
Now, obviously, there is a growing trend of the Muslim community in Kazakhstan, which is largely determined by the continuing migration of the European population, and at the same time, the growth of the Turkic peoples. Central Asian states, most of them are ethnic groups and confessions, the identification of a population characterized their denominational affiliation with ethnic. So, Asian ethnic groups identify themselves as Muslims, European — to Christians («Russian-speaking», tend to adhere to Orthodoxy). According to the State Commission on Religious Affairs of Kyrgyzstan, 80% of the population is the followers of Islam.
Indeed, religion has its so-called area of distribution in the historical geopolitical and religions aspect. Despite the fact that everyone can practice any religion, or no religion, yet the confession of faith is carried by man in society and state.
State, especially the one that took a particular religion to the «era of democratization», more or less explicitly insists on their preferential beliefs of population of this particular religion. More explicitly, it can be seen in theocratic states or in countries with a state religion. States, which have stable democratic traditions, are usually secular. However, they at the state level, as well as at the level of public consciousness, given the preference to any religion. For example, in the U.S. at the legislative equality of religions, in reality, Christianity has priority because of the large number of believers — Christians. Such a situation is typical for Western Europe.
It is in this sense we can speak about the history of B. Khamisov. Challenges of self-determination of Islamic organizations in Kyrgyzstan especially the «Central Asian» Islam is closely associated with the following factors.
First, Islam in Central Asia has always served as a non-peripheral position in relation to the classic Middle Eastern variant of Islam. It is this factor largely determines that the Central Asian region lacks the characteristics peculiar to the foreign Muslim countries: the proclamation of Islam as the state religion, the introduction of Islamic norms (Sharia) in legal, socio-cultural and politico-legal system, legislative strengthening privileges Muslims ethnic and culturally diverse societies (a vivid example — Malaysia) and others;
Secondly, features of Islam, determined by the specific status of Central Asia, located in an area where the combination of sedentary and nomadic civilization;
Thirdly, there are of so-called «early» and «late» Islamization. «Previously," the spread of Islam took place in a settled agricultural cultural zone of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as southwestern Kyrgyzstan.
More «late» Islamization was observed among the nomads in the territory of modern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. These differences in the spread of Islam defined specificity of its role in the life of the various peoples of Central Asia, the degree of stability of Islam and its manifestation in various spheres of society.
Peoples settled agricultural tradition (Uzbeks, Tajiks), as has been said, different active introduction of Islamic traditions and ideas in various aspects of life. In contrast, the nomadic culture of the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, partly characterized by rootlessness, the vagueness of Islamic precepts and norms, which indicates a rather superficial process of Islamization, which mostly provides a connection between Islam and local pre-Islamic traditions.

Peoples of settled agricultural tradition (Uzbeks, Tajiks), as it was mentioned, are distinguished by active involvement of Islamic traditions and ideas in various aspects of life. In contrast, the nomadic culture of the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, partly characterized by rootlessness, the vagueness of Islamic precepts and norms, which indicates a rather superficial process of Islamization, which mostly provides a connection between Islam and local pre-Islamic traditions. Above mentioned specificity of the spread of Islam has been evolved over centuries in Central Asia.

Herewith, this policy pursued by the Soviet Union in the least degree affected the development of Islam in Tajikistan, a little more in Uzbekistan and the most in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
One of the most significant factors is the ratio of urban and rural population. As it is well known, according to information 2000, a higher level of conservatism of the rural population contributes to the preservation of religious traditions.
In Uzbekistan, the rural population is 61%, Turkmenistan — 54.6%, Tajikistan — 71%, in Kyrgyzstan — 64%, Kazakhstan — 44%. Thus, in all the Central Asian countries, except Kazakhstan, rural population is more than half the population. At the same time the least urbanized appears Tajikistan.

No less important is the ethnic factor. As a result occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union, migration is a gradual transformation of the Central Asian states in mono-ethnic country, again with the exception of Kazakhstan (65% carriers of Islam, 30% — of Christianity, 5% — the adherents of other faiths). In Uzbekistan, more than half of the population is Uzbeks (74.5%), dominated by Turkmens in Turkmenistan — 72%, dominated by Tajiks in Tajikistan — 62.2%. Most of the population in Kyrgyzstan is Kyrgyz (58.6%). In Kazakhstan, Kazakhs make up 65% of the total population of the country. Almost in all the Central Asian countries can be traced regional differentiation in the degree and depth of religion, when it rises towards the south.

In Uzbekistan it is Fergana Valley, in Kyrgyzstan — Osh region, in Kazakhstan — South Kazakhstan region. This regional pattern coincides with relatively low socio-economic indicators of the development of these areas, overcrowding and surplus of human resources, most of whom are young people. It is explained by high unemployment level and agrarian orientation of national economies.

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