26 October 2005

Defining Islam in Central Asia

Damian Wampler, one of the Fulbright students, has a fascinating new post. He is conducting research on Islam in Kyrgyzstan and is living in Osh, a much more religious city than Bishkek. Bishkek and the north in general are quite different from the south. Many of the things I've mentioned about religion here apply specifically to Bishkek.

Damian asks a couple of very good questions: What does it mean to be Muslim? And who gets to decide who is Muslim, and who is not?

The same questions can be asked about Christians. But in any situation, they are rather interesting questions. And it is interesting to see how those questions are playing out in Central Asia.

I'm mostly concerned that people here don't have enough access to information about the diversity in Islam. I've known Muslim women who wear a burka and Muslim women who dress pretty much like me, and everything in between. Some work, some stay at home. Some live in the US, some live in Uzbekistan, some live in Palestine, some live in Sudan. There is no one right way to be a Muslim, just as there isn't one right way to be a Mormon.

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