Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gulen Schools Watched

I've occasionally raised the Gulen Movement as an example of an Islamic activist group that hasn't had its due impact in the scholarly literature because it does not operate in the Arab world, nor is Arabic one of its more important languages. Much of its influence comes from its extensive network of schools around the world, especially in Turkic countries. Central Asian governments, however, are starting to look at them with suspicion:
"In Turkmenistan, education authorities have ordered Turkish lyceums to scrap the history of religion from curriculums.

"In the only Persian-speaking country in the region, Tajikstan, the government, as well as academics, are wary of the possible spread of pan-Turkic ideas. They fear that these schools promote Turkish influence and the Turkish language in their country.

"However, it is Uzbekistan that has taken the toughest stance toward Turkish schools. In 1999, Tashkent closed all Turkish lyceums after its relationship with Ankara turned sour.

"This year, the authoritarian Uzbek government headed by President Islam Karimov took things a step further by arresting at least eight journalists who were graduates of Turkish schools. The journalists were found guilty of setting up an illegal religious group and of involvement in an extremist organization...

"Uzbek officials have expressed suspicions that Turkish-school graduates in government offices and other key institutions use their positions to weaken the secular government. They charge that graduates of Turkish schools promote an aggressive form of Islam and even a role for Islam in political life."

The charges in the last quoted paragraph are ridiculous. These governments are worried about religious organizations they can't control, and will toss out the standard charges to justify their crackdown.

UPDATE: IWPR is also reporting on this.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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