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Kyrgyzstan: Islamic Revivalist Movement Quietly Flourishing

In the past decade, Tablighi Jamaat – banned in other Central Asian countries - has established strong roots in Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: David Trilling)

A few miles east of downtown Bishkek, where the asphalt road dissolves into pitted dirt lanes amid Soviet-era apartment blocks, a newly renovated mosque gleams in the night. Inside, sitting on the floor under three bare fluorescent bulbs, a young man speaks in Kyrgyz to a group of 12 men.

“We must remember God in all our actions,” he says, imploring Muslims to join him for a house-to-house mission. “We must make God the center of our lives and set aside human things.”

This scene, repeated across the country thousands of times a year, is the product of a controversial Muslim revivalist movement that in the last decade has established strong roots in Kyrgyzstan. Founded in 1926 to revive faith among Muslim communities in India, Tablighi Jamaat -- “the Proselytizing Society” -- spread into Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The group is banned in Russia and all Central Asian countries, except for Kyrgyzstan.

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Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist.

Kyrgyzstan: Islamic Revivalist Movement Quietly Flourishing

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