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State agency proposes religious teaching by Kyrgyz Muslim Spiritual Authority alone

The head of the State Religious Affairs Agency in Kyrgyzstan believes that the Kyrgyz Muslim Spiritual Authority should be the only Muslim body in the country permitted to give sermons.

Tair Shamshiyev


KYRGYZSTAN — Head of the State Religious Affairs Agency Kanybek Osmonaliyev believes that the Kyrgyz Muslim Spiritual Authority (KMSA) should be the only Muslim body in the country permitted to engage in religious teaching. With “authority over more than 2,500 imams, 20 institutes of religious education and 60 madrasas, why have those in charge allowed other religious organisations and movements to engage in preaching?” he asked.

Jamaat Islami, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Tablighi Islami, organisations that have been declared extremist, actively preach in Kyrgyzstan according to law enforcement agencies. Until recently, the official clergy did not intervene, but under pressure from the government, the KMSA introduced rules governing religious teaching in May. Under the new rules, groups of clerics can consist of no more than seven members. If they operate in a single province, they cannot exceed five members. Clerics are also required to obtain licences to preach, after completing a 40-day course of study.

Osmonaliyev believes, however, that these measures are inadequate, adding that the government is more concerned with clerics’ religious knowledge and the content of their sermons than with authorisations to preach. “Clerics must not lead the public astray; they should work in the interests of Kyrgyzstan to strengthen the stability of interfaith relations within society,” he said.

The government’s concerns centre on the fact that some clerics advocate the creation of an Islamic caliphate within Kyrgyzstan, which would jeopardise the country’s secular system and constitutional order.

To strengthen the public’s immunity to fundamentalism, the government plans to introduce new courses in schools and universities by 2015 to teach students about the activities of religious extremist groups and destructive and totalitarian organisations, as well as the threats posed by religious extremism and terrorism.

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