Tuesday, June 17, 2008

PUBL.- "Religion Is Not So Strong Here": Muslim Religious Life in Khorezm after Socialism, Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi

Distrib. by: Central-Eurasia-L - Announcement List for Central Eurasian Studies

PUBL.- "Religion Is Not So Strong Here": Muslim Religious Life in Khorezm

Posted by: Berit Westwood <westwood@eth.mpg.de>

Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi.
"Religion is not so strong here"; Muslim Religious Life in Khorezm after
Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2008. 24.90 euros.


Atheist propaganda and the systematic repression of all forms of
institutionalised religion led to a considerable decline in religious
belief and observance among the Muslim population of Soviet Central
Asia. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, Islam began to
acquire renewed significance in the region. This development has
attracted much international interest from political scientists and
other analysts, most of whom tend to see the reassertion of Islam as
the most serious threat to regional security, political stability and
democratisation in the newly independent states of Central Asia. Little
work has been done so far to test such hypotheses by investigating the
articulation of Islam in particular local contexts. In this study of
contemporary forms of everyday Muslim religiosity in the province of
Khorezm in Uzbekistan, Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi aims to contribute to a
more balanced understanding of what is going on in the field of
religion in a place that, up to now, has received little scholarly
attention from Western anthropologists.

Among the newly independent states of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is
generally regarded as the country where post-Soviet Islamic revival has
been most visible and where 'fundamentalist' tendencies are the most
strongly pronounced. The religious landscape of Khorezm, however,
contrasts with this general picture and shows the danger of such
generalizations. The people of Khorezm consider themselves to be less
religious than their fellow countrymen and, there has been only a
moderate increase in observance of the normative tenets of Islam
following independence. For the majority, religious practice has
remained bound up with life-cycle events and concerns about health,
well-being, and prosperity. The book focuses on these elements of
everyday religiosity, which include various domestic rituals, shrine
related activities and diverse forms of religious healing. Kehl-Bodrogi
shows how the Khorezmians, like other Muslims in post-Soviet Central
Asia, have to grapple with tensions between their local heritage, the
new state ideology, and the pull of a religious modernism that is
informed by diverse external and internal influences. She outlines the
opposing conceptions that people hold about what constitutes correct
Islamic belief and practice and illustrates on the basis of rich
ethnographic materials how these often contradictory notions are acted
out in everyday behaviour.

What emerges from the different modes of religious behaviour described
in this book is a picture of temperance and tolerance which has deep
secular roots: people continue to think of religion as a matter of
private conscience rather than a public issue. This prevailing attitude,
Kehl-Bodrogi argues, prevents Islamic puritans or indeed any other
religious militants from making major inroads in the region.

Berit Westwood, MA
Secretary to Prof. C. Hann
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Advokatenweg 36, D-06114 Halle (Saale)
PO Box 11 03 51, D-06017 Halle (Saale)
(Phone) +49 (0)3 45-29 27-203
(Fax) +49 (0)3 45-29 27-202

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