Mosques + Computers = Development
USAID has recently made an interesting development decision by combining computer training with religion. Going through the contractor CHF International, a local mosque will now be coordinating a new computer center.
In Istaravan, the Imam of central mosque has been particularly active with ACTs Economic Opportunity Center (EOC). Concerned over the growing influence of an Islamic group that rejected modernity and sought to re-establish lifestyles of bygone eras, the Imam actively guides and promotes EOC activities to demonstrate the compatibility of religious and modern economic tools. The Imam and the EOC collaborated to establish a computer center as part of the madrassa serving the Istaravan community.
It is unclear from the article, USAIDs website, or CHFs whether or not this represents a broader policy initiative to bolster moderate Islam on the part of USAID, or whether this was an isolated decision made by CHF as a result of realities on the ground.
If it isnt an explicit strategy, maybe it should be. Islam has proven itself extremely adept at filling political vacuums of the variety currently manifesting in Central Asia; strengthening moderates could go a long way toward providing an alternative to more extreme elements in society. According to the project website, however, this initiative is designed to strengthen small businesses and entrepreneurship instead of as a counterbalance to Islamism.