Islam in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan: Experiencing Public Revival of Islam Through Institutionalisation

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Bilal Ahmad Malik

Abstract

After independence, Kazakhstan experienced widespread sociopolitical transformation reflecting the state’s conscious policy of integrating the “continuity” of the Soviet legacy with a “return” to pre-Soviet sacred-cultural history. One such notable transformation was the end of Soviet oppression of religion and emergence of the phenomenon of Islamic revival. In the years following independence, discussions around Islamic revival as a potential threat to Kazakhstan’s security and secular objectives, including the relationship between state, society and religion, overtook the academic, political, and policy discourse. Nevertheless, the question essential to contextualising the whole debate is whether Islamic revival follows the same normative conditions as predicted by the privatisation of religion theory, reducing religion to an individual’s “private matter,” or has it become a dynamic social function that affects people’s lives both at a personal and public level. To methodologically approach this question, this study discusses theoretical formulations relevant to the revival of Islam in a post-Soviet Kazakh context. Then the study examines the practical impact of Islamic revival, referencing the institutionalisation of Islam through religious, economic and political institutions. The study argues that since independence, despite the secular and authoritarian nature of the government, Islamic revivalism has become an institutionalised phenomenon in Kazakhstan, its appearance and function in the public domain increasing rather than decreasing.

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