Roundtable: Islamic Revival and Political Islam? Examining Islam and Politics Across Central Asia 
Robin Schulman (U.S. Department of State)
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Room 113
Friday 11 October, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Long Abstract

This panel brings together a diverse group of scholars to discuss Islamic revival and Islamist political trends in Central Asia over the past thirty years. The relationship between Islam and politics continues to spark intense debates among analysists and scholars of the region, and of academia more broadly. Some look at the reemergence of Islam in society and public life since the late Soviet era as a factor in the growth of extremism. Others, by contrast, see Islamic piety and practice as merely national expression or personal virtue. Likewise, some see the emergence of various forms of political Islam, from the IRPT to the IMU to ISIS, as signs of the inevitability of irrational radicalism while others see these groups as rational political players with rational, economic goals. Debates about state policy in the context of religious revival and in the face of growing transnational Islamism have also raged. Some see state liberalization and concessions to religion as capitulation to pre-modern preferences and a slippery slope towards anti-democratic Islamic fundamentalism and also as facilitating the spread of ISIS or al Qaeda to Central Asia. Others see such concessions as critical to defusing tensions, and a necessary step away from state atheism. The scholars on this panel—including political scientists, an anthropologist, and a government analyst--have all studied various aspects of these debates, and will briefly share their research on key issues to spark a broad and informed discussion. We hope to speak to both the scholarly community as well as the policy community, which is in an ongoing process of critically engaging the Central Asian states on these issues, especially as political reforms in Uzbekistan are underway.

Accepted papers: