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Vol. 6, No. 1 (2007) 35–42


Issues of religious extremism and international terrorism from theoretical perspective (Central Asian context)


University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

This paper stresses on growing vulnerability and lack of ability of the civilized world in comparison to the increasing capabilities and professionalism of the global terrorism. It describes the formation of ‘strategic linkage’ between religious extremism, terrorism and drug business in the view of inability of world community to affectively fight against them. These issues are analyzed on the sample of developments in Central Asia, which has become one of the primary targets of global terrorist activity.


This paper stresses on growing vulnerability and lack of ability of the civilized world in comparison to the increasing capabilities and professionalism of the global terrorism. It describes the formation of ‘strategic linkage’ between religious extremism, terrorism and drug business in the view of inability of world community to affectively fight against them. These issues are analyzed on the sample of developments in Central Asia, which has become one of the primary targets of global terrorist activity. Contemporary global political development is profoundly characterized by intensive transformation processes, which will have fundamental influence on formation of new world order. One of the paradoxical and dangerous tendencies in global political development is world community’s falling into a state of new ideological dissimilarity. It is demonstrated in attitudes to international terrorism, drug business and political extremism, which pose unprecedented threats to global security and progressive development. However, the international community did not yet manage to work out a unified stand in the struggle against those threats. With the evolution of perspectives and approaches to this problem the presence of serious contradictions and divergences has been gradually emerged. Moreover it has been amplified all over the West and the East. At the same time, the world mass media, giving detailed information on different terrorist acts worldwide, is becoming unconscious guider of performing terrorist acts. On the other hand, the global terrorist system, 1 co-operating with powerful drug mafias and extremist elements, extensively strengthens its capabilities of carrying out

Received: November 20, 2006

Address for correspondence:


University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent, Uzbekistan E-mail: ochiloff@mail.ru

B. B. OCHILOV: Religious extremism and international terrorism

professionally organized subversive activities in any part of the World. American experts identify it as “New terrorism”, 2 which differs from old ones fundamentally in terms of technique, technology and methods. Russian experts point out that terrorist system functions out of the legal regulations. It may sustain and develop itself in neutral, responsive or hostile environment. It is capable of creating its own “transterritorial infrastructure”, relying on modern communications, legal and illegal methods of mobilization and utilization of human recourses. Terrorist groups are determinedly intimated each other under common ideology notwithstanding to its direction, which facilitates putting off the problem of proving human victims, stimulates rigidity of their internal organization and enhancement of their conspiracy degree. 3

Recent developments

The break up of the bipolar world was followed by new period characterized by reassessment of the strategic changes in the global political developments and historical process by leading countries. Their strategic thought deals mainly with fundamental transformations in the balance of powers. Meantime several cells of radical and extremist elements emerge in many regions and convert into multifaceted global terrorist network. Radical centers, coordinating activities of wide-reaching extremist organizations, gradually and unnoticeably became permanent factors of global politics. 4 So-called «nontraditional threats» were firmly suppressed by the imperatives of bipolar resistance. Many of them were «frozen» or postponed but have been maturing during long period. For instance, the longstanding conflict in Afghanistan has transformed this country into the permanent center of instability for the macro-region of Central and Southern Asia and Middle East, which may be considered as a «contiguous circle surrounding Europe». The global campaign against international terrorism, catalyzed by September 11, 2001 events in U.S., has inspired peoples with hopes for good. However, consequent developments around the American concept of war against terrorism and in the world politics in general indicate the emergence of controversies, misunderstandings and serious disputes in forming attitudes in relation to terrorist violations in different parts of the World. It concerns, for example, «double standards» in assessment of such activities. Insurgent actions with the use of weapons and massive violence in one part of the world are considered as immanent threats to security, while the same actions in other regions are qualified as ‘uprisings of peaceful citizens in response to infringements of human rights’.


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The state of «democracy and human rights» is in essence a problem for any country. There is no country in the world, which could have succeeded in maintaining human rights completely. At the same time every state, including developing countries, declares democracy to be a general aim of economic and social reforms. Assuring human rights and interests has been fundamental direction of any policies. However, some leading states overwhelmingly concerned with a this problem in developing countries, including Central Asian countries, while the global network of terrorist forces effectively conceives and executes destructions using recent achievements of modern technologies and techniques. Several experts believe that the existence of divergences and contradictory approaches in relation to fight against international terrorism comes from the reality, in which geopolitical considerations prevail others. Condition of the balance of power dictates that states seek to maintain and strengthen their sustainability in world politics. This logic justifies, for example, the use of human rights and democracy as an instrument of geopolitical pressure where or when appropriate. It may imply that the state of affairs in international relations may remain the same as indicated. However, what is more obvious is that none of geostrategic projects promoted by contemporary superpowers might overcome others in middle and longer term perspectives. The global terrorist system intends to construct its own world order, which excludes interests of every existing superpower. The only power, whose interests completely correspond to terrorist ones, might be drug syndicates. In this connection any attempt to instigate the extremist activities might boomerang with catastrophic consequences for security, stability and future of the Planet. Religious-political centers target to strengthen their influence everywhere, especially in Central Asia, by using any, including terrorist means. Ideological and political vacuum, resulting from the collapse of the Soviet power in this region, started to be filled by doctrinal studies of religious-extremist organizations which tried to obtain permanent power in the regional socio-political arena. Central Asia was directly challenged and threatened by religious extremism and international terrorism as well as drug business, trafficking and environmental degradation. On the other hand, the phenomena of ‘westernization’, perceived as a variety of accelerating globalization, brings nontraditional values in non-western societies. In their turn, the radical elements declare a holy war against ‘nonbelievers’, taking the advantage of deeper religious consciousness and the existence of opposition to liberal values, fundamentally contradicting with traditional way of life and cultures in the Islamic East. As Charles Krauthammer points out ‘the case the jihadists make against freedom is that wherever it goes, especially the United States and Europe, it brings

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sexual license and corruption, decadence and depravity’. ‘Western freedom means the end of women’s mastery by men, and the end of dictatorial clerical control over all aspects of sexuality – in dress, behavior, education, the arts’. 5 Paradoxically, the globalization, rejected by radicals as harbinger of the Western values, provide them with significant power and influence as a consequence of moves of people, goods and ideas. In such a way, fundamentalist definition Islam has ‘transformed into an alternative source of power’. At the same time extremist ideas became especially attractive to those not attached to modern industrial sector. The social reason of strengthening of international terrorism lies in gigantic disparities in qualities of lives. The most hard-up people accuse the globalization to be foremost reason of their poverty and scarcity. They have been assured by extremist parties that absence of equal rights and legality, ‘existed in glorious Caliphate times’, is another reason of their vulnerability. This, coupled with extremists’ propaganda of ‘uncontaminated society of Caliphate’, creates favorable conditions for strengthening of tension and violence. Existence of social differences within Central Asian societies affects the specificity of perception of Islamic religion by various sections of population. Diverse destructive elements, enjoying vigorous support from abroad and operating on the most tactical slogans of radical Islam have been creating religious-political movements in this region. Their furthermost activity is addressed to those fields where socio-political problems are harshly accentuated due to severe transitional conditions. In reality, the concept of «Islamic terrorism» or «Islamic extremism» designates the international terrorist activity, in which mainly Muslim people are involved. However, ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’, it does not combine with categories expressing violence. This complicates the problem of struggle against the international terrorism and creates positional advantages for the destructive forces harping on their religious origin. There is a provocative and systematic attempt to generate collision between the Muslims and others. In this regard it must be mentioned that the permanent stress on the Islamic origin of international terrorism creates exclusive background and conducive environment for strengthening extremist and terrorist ideas in Islamic world. So-called «Hizb-ut-Tahrir-al-Islami» (Party of Islamic Liberation) and «Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan» (IMU) focused their activity against secular regime in Uzbekistan. Consequently they became most influential extremist organization in Central Asia. The problematic of these organizations, including activities, leaders and sponsors, is thoroughly described in a huge number of international articles and reports. We will stress on some of them.


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Dr Dina Malisheva points out that ‘the nucleus’ of Islamic opposition was created in Afghanistan; its ‘basic infrastructure’ was located in Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan played role of strategically important ‘transit war zone’ while the principal target was Ferghana Valley. The armed bandits based in Afghanistan were trained for subsequent military engagement in Central Asian countries, Chechnya, Xingjian, Indian Kashmir, etc. At one time, about 1.5 thousand bandits of IMU camped in Afghanistan. They took part in warfare in Balkh and Kunduz supporting Taliban. Moreover, IMU’s leaders intended to undertake ‘their own war against Uzbekistan’, not interfering with internal policy of ‘hosting countries’. Moreover, these bandits were met up friendly in some villages in Batken province (Kyrgyzstan)’. 6 Their strategic objectives were and still are overthrowing secular governments in the region and creation of ‘Ferghana Caliphate’. These radicals presume that the ‘Great Islamic Caliphate’ in the Valley should become crucial launching pad for further promotion of extremist ideas to deeper Eurasia. According to experts, number of serious socio-religious and inter and intra-national conflictive factors exist in the Ferghana Valley, divided among Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Extremists and terrorists stake on relatively greater religiousness of the local population in the Valley. Geographically sheltered by mountains, the Ferghana Valley is a region, where the major regional rivers originate. Historically it was crucially important to establish a control over water resources in order to conquer Central Asia. Transport and communication potentials in the Valley have become principal factor in the context of new geopolitical realities. In this regard extremists aim not only at creation of their bastion for further moving deep into the mainland, but also serving interests of wider range of destructive elements in the region. In particular, the main heroin and opium highways, going to Russia and Europe, cross through the Valley. The transnational drug mafia closely sponsors terrorists because it has serious interest in developing and advancing its illegal industry. The ethnically miscellaneous bandit gangs, being consolidated under the «belief in Islamic fundamentalism», are critically concerned with creating new drug transportation routs and protecting existing ones. 7 These groups include professionally well-versed Mujahids, who have become ‘jobless’, after Soviet armies left Afghanistan. Their jihad in Central Asia is a search for new targets and is basically program of employing those terrorists. They have excellent knowledge of local geography. IMU bandits were deployed in Karategin and Tavildar valleys in deep Pamirs, the highest mountains in Central Asia with area totaling more than 90 thousand sq. km. The severe climate and relief of Pamirs provided them with «perfect conditions for conducting military operations». The central route to Tavildar Valley crosses through dangerous soiled road on edge of deepest canyon. It is on the

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3.5 km above sea – an excellent haven for guerrilla operations. It is narrow enough not to allow security forces to use helicopters. Enjoying these facilities it was possible to constrain armies at the entrance to the canyon, which served as an excellent shelter against aviation and artillery bombardment. Moreover, the temperature hardly rises above zero even in spring. 8 At the same time the perception, according to which the religious extremism and international terrorism are considered to be different phenomenon, has been inadequate to reality. Moreover, they tend to become comprehensively integrated with drug business. Thus the ‘wall’ between religious extremists, terrorist organizations and drug mafia is turning into their ‘strategic linkage’. Extremists are vitally interested in maintaining and expanding their control over the ‘northern route’ of drug transportation to Russia, Central and Western Europe. Paradoxical is that the drug production level, decreased under Taliban rule, significantly multiplied in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the contemporary international military presence. Symptomatically in this regard is unofficial statement, given by NATO colonel:

«We maintain peace in Afghanistan. It is important to keep Afghanis not fighting each other. No matter what they do, including drug cultivation and trade, but shooting». As a reason, terrorist campaigns all over the world are regulated by powerful religio- political centers. Drug mafia employs bandits in order to secure heroin tracks and create new ones. Hijacking has been merely additional source of financing the terrorist activity. Dr Ahmed Rashid emphasized that Islamic rhetoric has been a ‘shield’, while IMU leaders intended to take control over the corridor to contraband Afghani drugs. 9 Thus the mighty drug mafia is becoming the main sponsor of international terrorism and religious extremism. It is vitally interested in weakening the secular state systems in Central Asia. The failures of global antiterrorist campaign and consolidation indicate that creativity and constructivism are possible only if they primate over geopolitics. In this regard, the May events in Andizhan (Uzbekistan, 2005) demonstrate the firm commitment and comprehensively plan of terrorist campaigns. In its turn those events are another evidence of the absence of unified position in relation to political extremism, terrorism and drug business. It was too obvious that some western journalists and reporters, operatively mobilized in this town, seemingly by command, tried to narrate those events in tendentious manner. There were a vast number of such articles totaling more than 1000 in different sources in Internet. At the same time several reports also prepared and announced by western scholars were traced in public. For instance, Dr Shirin Akiner, professor, Royal Oriental and African Studies Institute, after she paid personal visit to Uzbekistan, May, 2005, has


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published objective research on Andizhan events. 10 Prominent American experts in Central Asia including Dr John Daly and Dr Frederick Starr and others have published comprehensive ‘Anatomy of Crisis’ in Uzbek–American relations in the context of Andizhan events. 11 Both publications introduce thorough analysis of the real situation. Some other assessments state that external powers are capable of exploiting any possible instruments and mechanisms in pursuing their strategic interests in the region. The most dangerous is that Islamic factor has been transformed into the instrument of maintaining global influence. According to experts, the very activities of global and regional giants have produced the ‘geopolitization’ of the Islamic factor. On the other hand, the tragedy of events in Andizhan in May 2005 indicates to reanimation of «Great Game», in which extended number of participants pursues contradictory and often clashing interests. Uzbekistan was challenged by precisely expressed and systematized intention of several powers to deform its national territory and was obliged to cope with real risks and threats to its survival and large-scale information pressure. Considering that Uzbekistan is situated in the heart of Central Asia, it must be noted that destabilization of situation here may deteriorate the geopolitical context in macro-region of Central and Southern Asia and Middle East. The powerful religious-political centers form their own conception in relation to geopolitical reconstruction of Central Asia. It is possible to state the existence of real attempts to transfer the impulse of Middle East conflict to Central Asia. As a consequence, constant flashes of violence might become characteristic-distinctive feature of the regional background while the local population would be doomed to long- term stagnation. The fundamental nature of those geopolitical shifts may lead to creation of a «buffer zone» or «battlefield» in the framework of the region, in which there may take place not only permanent fights of geopolitical giants, but also tests of the newest kinds of armaments. The region faces the risk of appearing on a roadside of world politics, economy and general historical process. The general analysis of ‘burning’ regions on the Map justifies the unequivocal conclusion about their geographical specificity. The contemporary raging processes, conflicts of global and regional significance are taking place mainly in regions, which possess great amounts of resource stocks or situated on their transportation routes. The shifts in geopolitical situation in the extended region of Eurasia occur in accordance with the traditional principle of ‘Challenge-Response’. Central Asian countries are compelled to collectively neutralize those destructive aspirations. Vitally important for Central Asia is to preserve and develop its unique civilizational identity. Central Asian countries are secular states with Muslim majority, already attached to the modern

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technologies and civilization. These countries have highest literacy levels, surpassing those parameters in many countries of Asia and the world in general.


International community has to work out consolidated position in relation to fighting terrorism in place of dispersing facilities and strengthening global terrorist system. That consolidated position must imply the understanding that reconstruction process in Afghanistan must be coincided with massive funding of programs, aimed at liquidation of drug culture. The struggle against terrorism must prevail over geopolitical considerations. There is a vital need for new approach in relation to global threats and Central Asian realities in particular.

Notes and references

1. The global terrorist system contains of terrorist and extremist organizations and their branches deeply interrelated and technically-technologically interacting each other, cooperating with drug business, performing destructive activities, being situated in different parts of the world.

2. M. MORGAN: The Origins of New Terrorism. Parameters, 2004 (Spring) 29–43.


4. . : ! . " # $ ! , No. 4 (2001) 56–74.

5. C. KRAUTHAMMER: Abu Ghraib as Symbol. The Washington Post, 2004, 7 May. This item is available on the Benador Associates website, at http://www.benadorassociates.com/article/4068

6. D. MALYSHEVA: Conflicts on Russia’s Southern Borders. Pro et Contra, 5(3) (2000) 12–19.

7. CENTRAL ASIA: Islamic nerves. The Economist, 2000, 14 Oct.

8. A. RASHID: Pamirs Offer IMU Secure Base. Eurasia Insight, 2001, 10 Oct.

9. A. RASHID: Pamirs Offer IMU Secure Base. Eurasia Insight, 2001, 10 Oct.

10. S. AKINER: Violence in Andijan, 13 May 2005: An Independent Assessment. Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program, 2005, p. 51. 11. J. C. K. DALY, K. H. MEPPEN, V. SOCOR, F. S. STARR: Anatomy of a Crisis: U.S.–Uzbekistan Relations, 2001–2005. W.: Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, 2006, p. 110.


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