eview of Ahmed Rashid's 'Jihad'
In this new book, acclaimed journalist Ahmed Rashid examines the rise of militant Islamic movements in the newly independent states of former Soviet Central Asia. The post-Soviet regimes of the region blame this phenomenon on outside support from the Taliban, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim world. Rashid disagrees, arguing strongly that the repressive nature of these regimes, combined with their inability - even unwillingness - to foster economic development, has provided a breeding ground for militant Islamic movements. It is an argument the regimes and their supporters, including the United States, would do well to heed.
In Part I, Rashid briefly reviews the history of Islam and Central Asia: the pre-Soviet story of Central Asia and the role it played in the Muslim world and beyond; how Islam survived underground in the face of fierce repression during the Soviet era; and the failure of the post-Soviet regimes to foster either democracy or development, despite the presence of substantial petroleum resources in some of them.
The heart of the book, though, is Part II, "Islamic Movements in Central Asia Since 1991." In it, Rashid devotes a chapter to each of the principal post-Soviet Islamic movements in Central Asia - the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), the Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). He notes that these three movements are quite different from one another.
While the IRP fought against ex-communist forces in Tajikistan from 1992 to 1997, this was not simply an ideological conflict but one that involved regional rivalries. After the 1997 peace accord, the IRP actually joined the government - and has lost much of its credibility as a result, since it has been unable to relieve Tajikistan's grinding poverty.
Unlike the IRP in the past and the IMU now, the HT espouses a non-violent approach that "envisages a moment when millions of its supporters will simply rise up and topple the Central Asian governments
Mark N. Katz is a professor of government
and politics at George Mason University, and a regular contributor