Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Islam in Azerbaijan Stats

In an article about the possibility of Islamist political activism in Azerbaijan, RFE-RL reports that the country now has over 1400 mosques, compared with just 40 in 1991. That stat definitely supports my argument that Islam is a stronger presence in Azerbaijan and Central Asia now than some would have it based on Soviet-era expertise. However, that doesn't mean the country is some developing extremist hotbed. For one thing, I suspect you do have tons of people with Soviet-era educations who see Islam-tainted politics or an overtly Islamic lifestyle as suspicious.

The article talks about government control of mosques as a means to fight religious extremism, but the real question, I think, is a broader one of filling out the spiritual dimension of Azeri culture. Any political taints only make that process more difficult, and perhaps ensure the growth of extremist ideas away from the government-supported mainstream ones.

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