M5 "Re-Islamisation between State Influences and Global Muslim Networks"

Petra Tillery
Hiltrud Herbers

Crossroads Asia is a region strongly influenced by Islam. The latter became an important socio-cultural factor as well as a crucial link between ethnic groups living in this area and part of their identity. However, since politics changed considerably and several times during the 20th century, religion experienced different waves of constrain and freedom:

Until 1930 people had to deal only with limited restrictions. Even pan-Islamic movements were able to spread in the southeast of the Russian Empire respectively the incipient USSR and claimed for independence. In order to prevent such tendencies religious affairs came increasingly under state control – these constrains remained almost for the next 60 years. 

Since the collapse of the Soviet-Union in 1991, Islam witnesses a renaissance within the post-socialistic parts of Crossroads Asia (i.e. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan) – a process which was supported by foreign countries, especially by Iran, Saudi-Arabia and Turkey. These countries have close migration- and exchange-relations with the area under study in the form of financial support, missionary efforts and scholarships for theological universities. Besides, political movements and parties with Islamic background emerged such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. They are likewise part of translocal networks and their activities connect Central Asia again with the rest of Crossroads Asia and the global Muslim networks. 

In the first years after independence the governments of the post-socialistic states approved Islam and used it for own purposes. The pilgrimage to Mecca for instance, undertaken by some presidents, contributed also to their political legitimation. However, meanwhile the expansion and the increased significance of Islamic ideas and movements are seen as a political threat. Hence, the state tries again to bring it under its’ control. Islamic institutions, religious activities and translocal relations experience at present increasing restrictions, sometimes even repressions. An increasing number of tensions and conflicts between religious groups and the state results from this development.

The project deals with the actors of re-Islamisation, their involvement in translocal networks, their aims and activities and their relation to the state. Within the field of geography the project is linked to post-socialistic transition studies, which deal with social and spatial changes after 1989 in the concerned countries. Focusing on both, the negotiation of power within the states and the analysis of religious networks, the project contributes to geopolitics and geography of religion. The case studies of preference shall be Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.