Stephen Franks writes about some trips overseas working in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. He compares that experience with that of working Pakistan and in Turkey.
70 years of Soviet atheism has given Uzbekistan what Turkey is losing (officially secular state power co-existing with a mild Sufi Islam).
They’ve stayed mostly secular, despite infiltration and threats from neighbouring countries. They beat out a determined mainstream Islamist challenge 10 years ago, with no apologies for seeing it as a life and death matter.
It is challenging to one’s liberal beliefs to work out how the relative freedom and security of such countries could survive with the religious tolerance demanded by “Western” values.
10 years ago I did a job in Pakistan. Its intellectual life is dictated by the risk of prompt death for anyone who challenges Islamic orthodoxy, even if the mullahs represent only a small percentage of the population , and few of the qualified people who keep the country running. Read more »