An RSAA lecture with Dr. Adeeb Khalid.
Islam first emerged in Central Asia in the early ninth century when it was imported by regional leaders from the Middle East. Since then its influence and prominence has waxed and waned along with those in power. Under Soviet occupation Islam came to personify all that was not Russian and embodied a rejection of the Bolsheviks scientific atheism. Following the collapse of the USSR, newly independent elites across Central Asia deployed elements of Islam as a tool in the formation a national identities and the re-traditionalisation of society.
As a result of growing disillusionment with corrupt elites and poor socio-economic conditions across contemporary Central Asia, Islam is once again growing in popularity. This brings its own challenges in the form of the rise of radical political Islam and fundamentalism only encouraged by the recent return to power of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan. Islam is now a key factor in the politics, society and national identity of the Central Asian republics and one that will have an important influence on the regions future.