The “re-Islamization” of society in independent Uzbekistan has proven to be a complex process, generating conflict in the social, cultural and political spheres. Since the early 1990s, the regime of Islam Karimov has sought to undermine any manifestation of “unofficial” Islam via imprisonment of the leadership, implementation of repressive statutes governing religious activity, and other coercive means. Yet, since 1999 Uzbekistan has experienced more religious violence directed against government power structures by “extremists” than any other former Soviet republic in Central Asia. Important issues that should direct U.S. policy remain unresolved: How significant is the threat from radical Islam in Uzbekistan, that is, what are the chances of politicized, “fundamentalist” Islam emerging as a mass movement there? Has recent U.S. policy reduced or exacerbated the dynamics of conflict between the regime and the “radicals?” In order to effect resolution of this conflict, a new paradigm must be implemented in U.S.–Uzbek relations which moves the Uzbek regime toward democratization, while maintaining social stability. In addition, politicized Islam, in a non-radicalized form, should also figure into any policy strategy directed at long-term stability in Uzbekistan.

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