Islam in Central Asia does not constitute a uniform religious, social, or political force. While all titular Central Asian ethnic groups, i.e., the nations that states were named after, eventually embraced Islam, the religion did not penetrate the traditional cultures and social systems of these groups to an equal extent. While the sedentary groups generally embraced Islam fully, and often acquired a reputation for Islamic scholarship as well as occasional bouts of fanaticism, nomadic and pastoral groups more typically assimilated Islam in a more perfunctory manner.
These different degrees of Islamicisation remain visible today. The Tajiks are generally regarded as most Islamic, followed by the Uzbeks. The Kyrgyz, Kazaks, and Turkmens, in roughly descending order, are regarded as comparatively less Islamic in their attitudes.1 The difference bettween sedentary and nomadic groups with regard to Islam can also be discerned among the non-titular ethnic groups. So are, for instance, the sedentary Uighurs regarded as far more Islamic than their formerly nomadic neighbours. This traditional ranking in Islamic piety continues to affect the development of Islamic extremism in Central Asia. In newly independent Tajikistan, the influence of Islamic extremism constituted an important factor among those that caused the 1992-1997 civil war. Uzbekistan produced an Islamic extremist guerrilla group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which in its struggle against the secular regime had to relocate abroad and grew into an important part of the terrorist network around Al-Qaida. Uzbekistan is also the Central Asian country that appears to have been most susceptible to Islamic extremist politics in the form of the illegal Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan has been somewhat less affected, but affected nonetheless. Kazakstan, on the other hand, has been relatively little affected by domestic groups of Islamic extremists, while Turkmenistan so far may have been spared altogether. Among the Uighurs, an established but secular independence movement is currently losing ground to groups of Islamic extremists.
Since the various Islamic extremist movements have shown a propensity for violence, secular regimes in Central Asia as well as those in neighbouring states which may find themselves the targets of Islamic extremist aggression are duly concerned.

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