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Tashkent Takes Hardline Approach on Containing Turkish Soft Power

Saturday 7 April 2012

(Eurasia.net) – Religion is a wedge that is driving Uzbekistan and Turkey apart. In recent months, Uzbek leaders have intensified a campaign to contain Turkish economic and cultural influences in Uzbekistan. The most prominent component of this crackdown has been the arrest of 54 Turkish entrepreneurs over the past two years and the closure of at least 50 Turkish-operated businesses.

In addition, the presidential administration in late February ordered all state-owned and private television channels to stop airing Turkish sitcoms, claiming that they were “inappropriate” for an Uzbek audience. Turkish-funded schools have also been forced to close.

Underlying Tashkent’s actions is mounting distrust of the Islamist orientation of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). It would seem that Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s government worries that the AKP is working to promote Islamic piety not only in Turkey, but in the Turkic states of Central Asia. In particular, Tashkent is suspicious that the AKP is somehow abetting the activity of an Islamic evangelical movement led by the Turkish theologian Fetullah Gulen, whose ideas are rooted in concepts earlier espoused by Bediuzzaman Said Nursî in the mid-20th century.

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