Over winter break, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Shalahudin Kafrawi served as an international observer for Uzbekistan’s 2009 parliamentary election.
With the country’s Central Election Commission reporting almost 88 percent of 17 million registered voters participating in this, the country’s second parliamentary election since its independence in 1991, Kafrawi says that “Uzbekistan’s parliamentary election is a very important event.”
“Not only it is a sign of progress toward democracy in a former USSR country, but this Eurasian country is one of the Muslim-majority countries that seeks to implement democratic principles and institutions,” says Kafrawi, who teaches courses on Islam at HWS, including “The West and the Qur’an” and “Peace and Violence in the Qur’an.”
“Like Turkey and Indonesia,” Kafrawi says, “Uzbekistan has experimented with a model of democracy that is in line with democratic principles and is sincere to its cultural heritage and present-day context. The representation of the people’s voice may also curb Muslim extremism for it does not give the people a chance to look to Islam as an alternative ideology to channel their inability to have concerns heard and to have their voices represented. Another reason is that this Eurasian country may well be our potential ally to resolve our concern in Afghanistan.”
During his stay in Uzbekistan, Kafrawi was interviewed in national and local media outlets including Uzbekistan National News Agency (UzA), Yoshlar TV and Bukhara TV. He also met with Vladimir Norov, Uzbekistan’s foreign minister and was able to observe the rich cultural heritage of the country.
“Uzbekistan has been a very important place in the Muslim world,” says Kafrawi. “In the so-called ‘golden age’ of Islam, this area contributed so much to the development of Islamic intellectual tradition. Al-Khawarizmi-named after a city in the present day Uzbekistan and known in the West as Algorismi-based his study of Indian mathematics and developed a technique of mathematical calculation later known as Algorithm after this medieval mathematician’s name. Other scholars such as Imam al-Bukhari and al-Tirmidhi-the compilers of the canonical books of hadith, Islam’s second source after the Qur’an-and philosophers like Ibn Sina and al-Biruni lived in this area. This area is also home to the original Qur’an of the Uthmani codex, which Amir Timur brought to Samrqand from the Ottoman Empire. Now, about 88 percent of Uzbekistan’s 27 million people are Muslim.”
Kafrawi joined the faculty in 2008. He received his Ph.D. from Binghamton University, his M.A. from McGill University and his B.A. from Sunan Gunung Djati State Institute for Islamic Studies. His areas of expertise include Qur’anic studies and Islamic philosophy. He has previously taught at the State Institute for Islamic Studies, Hamilton College and Moravian College.
In the photo above, Kafrawi is pictured with Dr. Parviz Morewedge (New York) and Vladimir Norov (Uzbekistan’s foreign minister).