Central Asia: Bad Government Versus Bad Islam


November 14, 2011: Kyrgyzstan has sent more troops to help with border security, in reaction to recent terrorist attacks Kazakhstan. There have been two attacks there since October 31st, and another last May. The same terror group, Jund al Khilafah, took credit for all the attacks. Until this year, Kazakhstan had not suffered any terrorist violence. But there has been a noticeable growth in Islamic radicalism, and the Kazakh government has been trying to control that. 

Part of this effort was a new religious law. One interesting item in the new law was a ban on prayer rooms in government buildings. Apparently there was a disturbing growth in Islamic piety among government employees. Other items in the new law order all religious organizations (including foreign missionaries) to re-register with the government. The government is trying to shut down new mosques founded by Islamic conservative clergy. The Central Asian governments tend to be poorly run dictatorships, thus religion has a greater appeal to people who have little hope otherwise. Banning headscarves and religious schools won't solve the problem it will just force it underground. There has been a growth in Islamic radical groups, but not anywhere near the levels found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Over the last decade, Central Asian nations have been increasing their counter-terror activities. But there has not been a commensurate growth in Islamic terrorism. There has been a growth in corruption and bad government. The best thing the Islamic radicals have going for them is a promise to replace current dictatorships with clean government. Not all people in the region want a religious dictatorship, because they have noted that "Islamic Republics" (as in Iran and Afghanistan) don't work so good either. And there are bigger problems to worry about.

The five former republics of the Soviet Union (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) that now comprise most of Central Asia are finding drug gangs more of a threat than corrupt politicians and Islamic radicals. While there have been more Islamic terrorism incidents, the number is still very small, and some of them have to be investigated a bit to make sure the violence wasn't just gangsters (who also use terror attacks). There are a lot more gangsters (especially drug smugglers and distributors) than Islamic terrorists in the region.

Most of the people in the region are at least nominally Moslem. During seven decades of communist rule, Islamic practices were strictly regulated and curbed. Since independence (after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991), the dictators that took control of most of the region have brought bad government and corruption. People looking for something better have found Islam, especially the radical kind, a potential solution. Nothing else seems to be working. Although some Central Asian states have pledged to fight corruption, the results are largely cosmetic.

November 12, 2011: In the south Kazakhstan town of Taraz, a lone Islamic terrorist, armed with a firearm, shot dead four policemen and two civilians, before killing himself and another policeman with his explosive vest. The incident began when two policemen spotted the terrorist and began following him. The terrorist detected this and opened fire.

October 31, 2011: In southern Kazakhstan, a lone Islamic terrorist set off two bombs in a city within the oil producing region near the Caspian Sea. The only person killed was the terrorist. Jund al Khilafah, a local Islamic terror group, took credit for the attack and said there would be more if the government did not repeal recent laws that tightly regulated Islamic organizations. There have been several attacks like this in Kazakhstan this year, and the government wants to crush the Islamic terror groups before they become capable to more deadly attacks. The attack today, for example, was carried out with crude home-made explosives.


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