In Kyrgyzstan, religious campaigning on the streets is going to be banned

Deputies of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic are again considering the draft law On amending the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic “On freedom of religion and religious organizations in the Kyrgyz Republic”, initiated by the government of the Republic.

During the discussion, the deputies raised a wide range of issues related to the formation and implementation of state policy in the religious sphere, including the issues of combating religious extremism and terrorism.

Ekmat Baybakpaev, the deputy from the parliamentary faction “Republic-Fatherland” emphasized that issues of state and national security depend on the effectiveness of solving problems to prevent the dissemination of radical and extremist ideas.

The head of the State Commission for religious affairs, Zaiyrbek Ergeshov, said that to solve these problems, the department developed a draft law banning religious propaganda in order to convert from one religion to another, including the use of methods of consciousness’ manipulating, etc.

In the course of further discussion, the deputy from the faction “Republic-Fatherland”, Mahabat Mavlyanova, proposed tightening state control over the observance of legislation by religious organizations, pointing out the rapid growth of various organizations, some of which are engaged in propaganda of extremist and destructive ideas. First of all, young people are at risk group.

“The main mission of the State Commission for religious affairs is to counter religious extremism and terrorism. However, for some reason, religious organizations continue to function in Kyrgyzstan, which are recognized as illegal in neighboring countries, as well as in Russia,” the parliamentarian said.

Director of the State Commission for religious affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Zaiyrbek Ergeshov replied that in most cases the legislative prohibition in Kyrgyzstan and in neighboring countries is similar, except the religious organizations “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and “Tablighi Jamaat”.

Deputy of the MIA Mirlan Kanimetov added that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has a special department to combat extremism in the structure, which exercises control over the entire information space.

“Currently, 339 criminal cases have been opened for propagating radical ideas, 16 – for suspicions of involvement in terrorism,” Kanimetov explained.

It should be noted that since 2014, the concept of state policy in the religious sphere has been implemented in Kyrgyzstan, but the main document “Amendments to the Law on religious freedom and religious organizations” has not been adopted.

In 2015, a working group was formed, which, together with religious organizations and experts, developed a draft law. In 2017, it was considered in two parliamentary committees, but it was recalled. The document went through extensive discussions with all religious organizations and the muftiat. Now it is again pending in the parliament.

It is known that it contains many amendments, but the main rule is the prohibition to make the round of apartments and houses in order to spread religious views. That is, they want to forbid missionaries knocking at home and agitate citizens, especially, trying to convert them to their religion. The new law clearly spells out that agitation can be carried out only in religious institutions: in Islam, it is a mosque and madrassah, in Christianity – the church. This norm is introduced so that citizens are not stopped on the street and not disturbed at home.

The head of the State Commission for religious affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic Zaiyrbek Ergeshov, in the interview with radio “Svoboda”, said that the ban would not affect Islamic followers. Namely, the exponents will be allowed to knock at home and invite citizens to the mosque, where they will be told about Islam.

“I think that they decided to leave this norm just in case. Indeed, initially, precisely because of this, a ban on campaigning on the streets was introduced. But the muftiat reacted very quickly and even before the adoption of legislation, they issued fetwah so that calls would be held only in mosques with the permission of the imam and local authorities. But, nevertheless, sometimes we see that they walk along the streets. But not like before. So this norm is already losing relevance today,” said Orozbek Moldaliev (specialist in national and regional security, religious extremism and terrorism) in the interview with ACCA.

True, in order that the norm on restricting religious agitation outside mosques and temples work, mechanisms for its implementation are necessary. However, it is still unclear how exactly the law will be enforced in this part, who will monitor it, and how they will be punished for violations.

“I was not in the draft law development group; I only know it from reports. Specifically, it is unclear what will be the punishment and sanctions for violating this rule. I asked the question, how they intend to respond. The introduction of a fine or just a warning was considered. I don’t know what they have decided,” said Moldaliev.

The expert told how the adoption of the law will affect adherents of the movement “Tablighi Jamaat”.

“As for “Tablighi Jamaat”, in 2014, at the meeting of the Defense Council, it was decided to bring Islam in Kyrgyzstan in accordance with the Hanafi mazhab. In the Hanafi mazhab, calls to accept faith are heard only from the imams in the mosque during the religious service. But visiting homes is a Pakistani phenomenon that came from British India. There is also the Hanafi mazhab in Turkey. For some reason, people in our country are favorable to this phenomenon. Therefore, it is necessary to clarify the issue, since it was decided at the Council to pass to the Hanafi mazhab, then it is necessary to completely accept this tendency, and not in parts,” Orozbek Moldaliev considers.

“Tablighi Jamaat”, according to experts, is the largest movement in Kyrgyzstan, whose representatives are engaged in calls for religion. The parliament several times raised the question of a possible ban on the organization. In particular, last year, individual deputies spoke out in favor of recognizing its illegal activities during discussions on ratification of the SCO Convention on countering extremism.

The reason for this was that “Tablighi Jamaat” was recognized as extremist not only in the SCO document, but also in the CSTO agreement. The activities of this religious organization are prohibited by the court in Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, China and Tajikistan, which are considered strategic partners of Kyrgyzstan. But official Bishkek does not support this ban.

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