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Kazakhstan calls for protests to be peaceful
Threats and violence do little to advance cause, Kazakhs say
By Gulmira Isakova
ASTANA – Kazakhstani authorities are urging those who wish to protest a recent anti-Islamic film to behave peacefully and not to threaten foreign diplomats or carry out other acts of violence, Foreign Ministry spokesman Altai Abibullayev said September 18.
“We, as this year’s chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, also resolutely condemn the attacks on diplomatic missions that have taken place in various countries,” he said. “We call on all states to honour all their international obligations on the immunity of diplomats and diplomatic buildings.”
While the film in question might vilify the religious sentiments of all Muslims, that doesn’t mean the answer has to be violence, Abibullayev said.
Kazakhstanis, though, are unlikely to demonstrate, predicted Murat Telibekov, director of the Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan.
“I doubt we’ll have a spontaneous mass protest,” he said. “We should recognise that we don’t have such fanatically minded people. Traditionally, Kazakhstani Muslims have never been noted for such intolerance, aggression or fanaticism.”
Reaction to the film “Innocence of Muslims” has been heated in some countries, despites calls from religious leaders who say violent protests contradict the teachings of Islam.
Kazakhstan has various religions
Kazakhstan has many religions – in more than 20 years of independence, it has registered more than 4,000 religious associations representing more than 40 faiths, including 2,736 Muslim, 303 Russian Orthodox, 1,301 Protestant, 87 Catholic and 27 Jewish communities. It also has registered more than 300 foreign missionaries.
Since independence, Kazakhstani Muslims haven’t participated in violent protests, said Ongar hajji Omirbek, spokesman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan.
“I think that our attitude to religion is tolerant,” Telibekov said. “This is primarily tied to the national psychology of the Kazakh people.”
Tolerance evidenced publicly, privately
Kazakhstan puts that tolerance on display regularly, with Astana hosting the congress of world religions every two years.
“We have a law on religion,” Senator Gani Kasymov said. “At an international level, we hold symposia and conferences of leaders of all world religions. Our head of state (Nursultan Nazarbayev) and our state policy give great significance to this. Therefore, we can say that we demonstrate a policy of tolerance and respectfulness.”
Acceptance also shows up among individuals.
Daniyar, a Nazarbayev University student who follows all the canons of Islam, said he hadn’t even sought the film on the internet.
“This is a typical provocation,” he said. “Muslim brothers must understand that it’s barbarism to respond to some film by killing absolutely innocent people. Is that how we want to show ourselves? Islam prohibits murder and violence too. I would never go to such a demonstration.”