Review of Political Islam in Central Asia: The challenge of Hizb ut-Tahrir
In Political Islam in Central Asia, Emmanuel Karagiannis provides a comparative analysis of the activities of the Islamic political organization Hizb uh-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party). Karagiannis applies Social Movement Theory (SMT) in analyzing his research conducted on Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) activities in Central Asian states. For his case studies, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are used. Karagiannis’ central guiding questions are the following: What are HIzb ut-Tahrir’s goals and strategies in Central Asia? Why has Hizb ut-Tahrir emerged in Central Asia? Why does the group remain nonviolent?
Karagiannis elaborates on the ideology and objectives claimed by HT, namely: that the Islamic law of sharia is necessary to regulate all aspects of life and society, and that this can only be realized through the establishment of a Caliphate (Islamic State). HT finds it essential that religion and the state are inseparable. Karagiannis outlines the planned political apparatus of the Caliphate in insightful detail, noting the inclusion of a distribution of functions generally managed by modern states. Karagiannis also illustrates and elaborates on the current organization of HT. In this description, Karagiannis notes the cellular structure of the organization, which resembles clandestine tactics employed by protest and revolutionary organizations since the beginning of the 20th century. Karagiannis further elaborates on recruitment methods and hierarchy of the organization in general.
Karagiannis includes a comparative analysis of the activities pursued by HT and its legal status in his Central Asian case studies. HT is illegal in Tajikistan, and is contrasted in this book with the legal Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). Karagiannis writes of HT’s disdain for the IRPT (which it views as a collaborator with the state) and the arrests of HT members since 2001. Karagiannis describes the extensive crackdown pursued against HT in Uzbekistan following a 1999 assassination attempt of President Islam Karimov. In Kazakhstan (as in other Central Asian states), HT is said to have engaged in distributing literature and recruiting membership, which led the Kazakh government to outlaw HT in 2007. It is also banned in Kyrgyzstan, though Karagiannis suggests that it is treated more lightly with the allowance of a “warning” on first offences. Karagiannis includes that HT is banned and its members are arrested in Russia and Turkmenistan, but that the organization is growing with relatively little trouble in China and Ukraine.
Karagiannis elucidates that HT is a Social Movement Organization (SMO) that has attracted most of its followers due to the instability inherited by state governments following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Karagiannis applies structural-functional theory, resource mobilization theory, political process theory, and framing theory in explaining the development of HT in Central Asia. Karagiannis asserts, however, that most social movement theories are lacking in understanding the amount of ideological appeal possessed by HT.
In the final chapter, Karagiannis suggests that state security narratives have erroneously proscribed the organization as violent in its activities. Karagiannis argues that in applying resource deprivation theory, HT should also be resorting to violence in much the same way that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan did. Karagiannis concludes the book with a series of recommended actions for policymakers, including: promotion of an inclusive democratic process, legalization of HT in all states, leave religion as a private issue, and increased international investment into the economies of Central Asia. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in reading a comparative case study that applies social movement theory to a political organization with a religious ideology.
Review of Creating Enemies of the State: Religious Persecution in Uzbekistan
In Creating Enemies of the State, Acacia Shields provides a narrative historical account of the origins of and methods of coercion use against political Islamic movements in Uzbekistan. Most of the research published in the book was collected from interviews of victims and witnesses of repression and violence, as well as from court records and analysts. In essence, Shield’s writing includes policy recommendations, ove
Shields provides a narrative of the origins of Islamic revival and opposition movements in Uzbekistan during the 1990s. More particularly, the section highlights the rhetoric issued by President Islam Karimov and the ways in which religious and opposition movements have been repressed. Shields mentions the scope of state control through enforcing an “official Islam” and the selective yet widespread arrests of individuals that eventually contributed to the appearance of violent organizations such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Shields also reveals the rhetoric promoted by the state, which was project through hate rallies and public denunciations from secular citizens, religious figures, and bureaucrats.
Shields continues to list numerous instances of unwarranted searches and detention. Reported instances of torture, closed trials, and denial of appeals are also mentioned. Acacia Shields provides a detailed narrative account of reported human rights violations in Uzbekistan between 1991 and 2003. In this book, Shields reveals the state narrative regarding non-state Islamic activity and how it has been promoted by government officials and state-sponsored religious figures. Citizens promoting Islam without the consent of the government and beyond the authority of the state-run clergy resulted in widespread arrests, torture, and disappearance.
Acacia Shields explains the research methodology used by Shields and multiple contributors. It also includes a series of policy recommendations to government and non-government actors: the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the U.S. government, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU), and the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (INHCHR). Shields lists roughly thirty-three recommendations to the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Essentially, they recommend that the government of Uzbekistan cooperates with United Nations committees on justice and freedom of religion, improves prison conditions, cooperate with the OSCE to repeal discriminatory laws, review and release those unjustly accused of being involved in violent activities, increase transparency, and prevent torture.
Shields recommends that the United States take a firm stance by classifying Uzbekistan as a country of concern for religious repression. Shields also recommends that the United States make security and intelligence aid given to Uzbekistan contingent on the Republic’s adherence to the recommendations mentioned above. The OSCE is recommended to increase observation of protest events and informing members of the Uzbek government of rights violations. The EU is recommended to publicly reprimand the government of Uzbekistan for violating human rights and to monitor efforts made by the government to improve the situation. Shields recommends that the UN also monitor the situation more closely and to investigate the cases of alleged victims. Acacia Shields’ Creating Enemies of the State is a valuable publication for anyone interesting in learning more about Islam and national security narratives in Uzbekistan, as well as how Islamic political activity has been met with human rights violations.