Mainstream Islam in the 1990S
For the most part, however, in the first years of independence Uzbekistan is seeing a resurgence of a more secular Islam, and even that movement is in its very early stages. According to a public opinion survey conducted in 1994, interest in Islam is growing rapidly, but personal understanding of Islam by Uzbeks remains limited or distorted. For example, about half of ethnic Uzbek respondents professed belief in Islam when asked to identify their religious faith. Among that number, however, knowledge or practice of the main precepts of Islam was weak. Despite a reported spread of Islam among Uzbekistan's younger population, the survey suggested that Islamic belief is still weakest among the younger generations. Few respondents showed interest in a form of Islam that would participate actively in political issues. Thus, the first years of post-Soviet religious freedom seem to have fostered a form of Islam related to the Uzbek population more in traditional and cultural terms than in religious ones, weakening Karimov's claims that a growing widespread fundamentalism poses a threat to Uzbekistan's survival. Available information suggests that Islam itself would probably not be the root cause of a conflict as much as it would be a vehicle for expressing other grievances that are far more immediate causes of dissension and despair. Experts do not minimize the importance of Islam, however. The practice of the Islamic faith is growing in Uzbekistan, and the politicization of Islam could become a real threat in the future.
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