Being Muslim in Central Asia

Practices, Politics, and Identities


This volume explores the changing place of Islam in contemporary Central Asia, understanding religion as a “societal shaper” – a roadmap for navigating quickly evolving social and cultural values. Islam can take on multiple colors and identities, from a purely transcendental faith in God to a cauldron of ideological ferment for political ideology, via diverse culture-, community-, and history-based phenomena. The volumes discusses what it means to be a Muslim in today’s Central Asia by looking at both historical and sociological features, investigates the relationship between Islam, politics and the state, the changing role of Islam in terms of societal values, and the issue of female attire as a public debate. Contributors include: Aurélie Biard, Tim Epkenhans, Nurgul Esenamanova, Azamat Junisbai, Barbara Junisbai, Marlene Laruelle, Marintha Miles, Emil Nasritdinov, Shahnoza Nozimova, Yaacov Ro'i, Wendell Schwab, Manja Stephan-Emmrich, Rano Turaeva, Alon Wainer, Alexander Wolters, Galina M. Yemelianova, Baurzhan Zhussupov
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Table of contents

Contents List of Figures and Tables Notes on Contributors IntroductionMarlene Laruelle

Part 1: What Does It Mean to Be a Muslim in Today’s Central Asia?

1 How ‘Muslim’ are Central Asian Muslims? A Historical and Comparative EnquiryGalina Yemelianova 2 Two Countries, Five Years: Islam in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Through the Lens of Public Opinion SurveysBarbara Junisbai, Azamat Junisbai, and Baurzhan Zhussupov 3 Uzbekness and Islam: A Survey-based Analysis of Identity in UzbekistanYaacov Roʾi and Alon Wainer

Part 2: Islam, Politics, and the State

4 The Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan: Episodes of Islamic Activism, Postconflict, Accommodation, and Political MarginalizationTim Epkenhans 5 Power, “Original” Islam, and the Reactivation of a Religious Utopia in Kara-Suu, KyrgyzstanAurélie Biard 6 Islamic Finance and the State in Central AsiaAlexander Wolters

Part 3: Islam in Evolving Societies and Identities

7 Visual Culture and Islam in Kazakhstan: The Case of Asyl Arna’s Social MediaWendell Schwab 8 Playing Cosmopolitan: Muslim Self-fashioning, Migration, and (Be-)Longing in the Tajik Dubai Business SectorManja Stephan-Emmrich 9 Informal Economies in the Post-Soviet Space: Post-Soviet Islam and Its Role in Ordering Entrepreneurship in Central AsiaRano Turaeva

Part 4: Female Attire as a Public Debate

10 The War of Billboards: Hijab, Secularism, and Public Space in BishkekEmil Nasritdinov and Nurgul Esenamanova 11 Hijab in a Changing Tajik SocietyShahnoza Nozimova 12 Switching to Satr: An Ethnography of the Particular in Women’s Choices in Head Coverings in TajikistanMarintha Miles Bibliography Index


All interested in post-Soviet societies, especially Central Asian ones, and in the social, political and cultural evolutions of Islam in Eurasia.


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