In Kazakhstan, within the framework of the State program on combating religious extremism and terrorism for 2018-2022, awareness-raising round tables for students are held throughout the country. The emphasis on youth is not accidental, since it is young people who most often fall into the network of destructive movements. In addition, the level of religiosity in the Republic is growing every year. It is no coincidence that there are 4173 different religious associations in the country (there were only 670 in 1990).
“Young people need to be timely adapted, informed about modern challenges and threats that hang not only over Kazakhstan, but also over many countries of the world,” religious scholar Nurmukhammed Meymankhozha said at a meeting of the Information and Explanatory Group of Almaty with students of the Kazakh Academy of sports and tourism. “According to the latest data, in our country, more than three thousand people have been convicted of participating in extremist and terrorist activities. Unfortunately, many of them were victims of pseudo-religious movements and terrorist organizations, because they didn’t receive the necessary knowledge and didn’t increase their religious literacy, that is, showed carelessness.”
“Extremism is aimed at forcibly changing the constitutional system, violating the sovereignty of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the integrity, inviolability and inalienability of its territory, at undermining national security and defense of the state, as well as inciting social, class, racial, ethnic and religious animosity,” Kakimzhan Bishmanov, the President of the Public foundation “Center for the Study of the problems of terrorism and extremism in Republic of Kazakhstan” told the students of the Kazakh Academy of transport and communications. “In most cases, terrorists have extremist views, because extremism is an ideological source of terrorism, so it’s true that extremism is responsible for everything that creates terrorism.”
Meanwhile, according to the opinion of a Muslim public figure, writer Murat Telibekov, despite the fact that religion in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly popular, there are no growth in the number of adherents of violence and terror in the country. Telibekov said this in an interview with ACCA.
– Murat, has there been a recent surge in religious extremism in Kazakhstan? If so, what is the reason?
– Every Friday I go to one of the central mosques in Almaty. Frankly, there is no impression that Kazakh believers are overly exalted. I see no signs of extinguished fanaticism or aggressiveness. Muslims calmly pray, peacefully communicate. It is possible that episodes of inadequate behavior of individuals are observed somewhere, but in general the situation does not cause anxiety.
It must be admitted that religion in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly popular, but this doesn’t mean that the number of adherents of violence and terror is growing at the same time. In my opinion, Islam in our country doesn’t pose a serious danger. Moreover, sometimes it seems that the threats are synthetically exaggerated, and some people begin to speculate on the problem. Unfortunately, such methods quite often are used by politicians to achieve their goals.
– Why, in your opinion, do people become religious extremists? And who is responsible?
– If we talk about the causes of radical sentiments among believers, then first of all, these are socio-economic conditions. When the authorities are not able to solve pressing problems, people begin to look for a way out, and then criminal authorities, sorcerers and all kinds of missionaries come to the rescue. A growing number of unemployed and poor people in the country provokes crime. Religious extremism is also a crime, but covered by scripture.
In my opinion, all the troubles cannot be explained by the lack of bread and circuses. There have been much more difficult times in our history. Recall at least the period of the World War II. People lived much harder then. However, there has not been such a rapid increase in crime and suicide. Today’s increase in the number of suicides and an increase in the number of believers are links of one chain. Man is a paradoxical creature. It is not enough for him to have food and a roof over his head. He needs to have the meaning of his life. When it is lost, a person degrades and dies. Religion partly fills this gap. All attempts by the state to fill the ideological void have so far failed.
– How do you assess the activities of the Kazakh authorities in preventing and combating religious extremism?
– The authorities today took the activities of religious institutions under the tight control. I think this is the right decision. The notorious thesis “Religion is separate from the state” is not mentioned anywhere else. If earlier officials manipulated the clergy secretly, now this is being done openly. Unfortunately, forceful methods often prevail in this dialogue. Two years ago, I had to attend a lawsuit where a young man was accused of extremism. The sentence seemed ridiculous and monstrously cruel. Five years in prison were given to the young man for posting several Arabic songs on the Internet in which he sang love for his mother. One can’t break human destinies so thoughtlessly!
– Often criticism is expressed that convicts for religious extremism are held in prisons and colonies together with other prisoners; it allows them to recruit new followers. Is this really so? And what can be done?
– Regarding religious recruitment in prisons, I know many examples when a person in prison was inspired with religious beliefs and, having been released, began to live righteously. Is it bad? Frankly, it’s difficult for me to imagine how in a closed institution you can conduct the so-called “recruitment”. Each step of the prisoner is carefully monitored. And most importantly is the psychological state of the prisoner. A man in captivity passionately dreams of freedom. This feeling suppresses all other thoughts and desires – to go to war in Syria, join the ranks of ISIS, create an Islamic caliphate. I’ll quote a former prisoner: “But for religion, I would have committed suicide or lost my mind. In prison, ideal conditions are created for a person to go down to the level of a beast, to become a pervert or a sadist. If the system is interested exactly in this, it must destroy any manifestations of faith in places of imprisonment.”