Counter-extremism, secularism and the category of religion in the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan: should we be studying Islam at all?

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Abstract

This article compares the UK Government’s counter-radicalisation policies as expressed in its Prevent Strategy with the Uzbekistan Government’s discourses on Islamic extremism. Some striking parallels are drawn, in particular that both governments present ‘good’ and ‘bad’ versions of Islam and promote their own state sanctioned official Islam, that they understand religion in terms of ideology, and that extremism is defined in an opposition to an ideal of national values. Rather than comparing the extent of state control of religious expression, the article uses the parallels between the two state contexts to interrogate the analytical value of the category of religion itself. Following Talal Asad’s critique, it argues that outside of particular discursive projects religion has no objective or universal purchase. Scholars should be wary of using ‘religious’ or ‘Islamic’ as descriptors, for example when making distinctions between ‘religious’, ‘political’ or ‘cultural’ factors or motivations, or even of framing our studies as studies of Islam.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstructing the Uzbek State
Subtitle of host publicationNarratives of Post-Soviet Years
EditorsMarlene Laruelle
PublisherLexington Books
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4985-3837-4
ISBN (Print)978-1-4985-3836-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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Rasanayagam, M. J. (2017). Counter-extremism, secularism and the category of religion in the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan: should we be studying Islam at all? In M. Laruelle (Ed.), Constructing the Uzbek State: Narratives of Post-Soviet Years Lexington Books.