Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Central Asia has become fertile ground for Middle Eastern Islamic influences, but Muslim movements from the Indian subcontinent are also gaining inroads in this region, likely carrying its own geopolitical impact, writes Bayam Balci in the journal Religion, State and Society (Vol. 43, No. 1). For the past two decades, such countries as Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan have imported their own forms of Islam into Central Asia while the governments of its various countries created official Islamic organizations to control the religion and prevent extremism. Relative newcomers to the Islamic scene were Muslim groups from India and Pakistan—historically, the ties between Indian Islamic groups and Central Asia were very strong—the most notable being Jamat al Tabligh (JT). The movement is known for its strong pietism and missionary thrust, calling members to go door-to-door seeking recruits.
After 9/11, the JT gained some favor among Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Kergyzstan, because it is staunchly apolitical and non-radical. Yet since then, JT has faced an uneven reception in Central Asia—quite common in Kazakhstan and Kergyzstan but often repressed in countries with a tight control of religious expression, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where it is completely absent. Balci notes that JT centers in India have become sites of pilgrimages for Central Asians. He concludes that Turkish and Arabic Islamic groups have appealed to Central Asian elites, while the JT reaches the poor masses. Yet in Kergyzstan last December, a JT leader was appointed as new mufti at the top of the religious establishment. JT’s “diffusion throughout Central Asia and its proselytism of young people, could in the coming years enable it to burst out of the circle of the marginalized and introduce itself to elites. Its current non-political state does not mean that it will never be politicized in the future, especially if the socio-economic conditions continue to deteriorate.”
(Religion, State, and Society, http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/crss20/current)