Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have justified the need for repression of Islamic practices and religious groups as a means of responding to the increasing activities of militant Islamic movements, notably the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is perceived as a major threat to Central Asia stability. According to a report by the International Crisis Group in Brussels, by seeking to control the social and political activities of these faith based organisations, the government policies are “exacerbating simmering social and political tensions and increasing the risk of new outbreaks of violence." Concerned with the rise of Islamic radicalism in the region, Russia, China and Western powers “ reinforce the instincts of the need to crack down on religious observance and organisations”, it said.
The report says that the reaction to low-level operations of the IMU in the last two years have in themselves created tension. As a refuge for Islamic militants, Afghanistan will continue to exert a destabilising influence in the region, it said. However, the report claims that the most powerful negative influences are from within. The persistent repression of political opposition groups and activities in the three countries risks alienating wider sectors of the population, driving them towards greater radicalism. The report says that the challenge facing the three countries is to “separate real threats from spectres” and advocates greater tolerance as protection against rising militant threats. [For full report visit www.intl-crisis-group.org]
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