Kyrgyz needs better legislation on religious affairs – official

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BBC Monitorin, Dec. 17, 2002
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The deputy chair of Kyrgyzstan’s State Commission for Religious Affairs, Natalya Shadrova, has called for a new national ideology to counter the onslaught of alien ideologies flooding into the country. The commission has a staff of nine and is unable to monitor all the religious establishments registered. Underground religious establishments go unmonitored. Over 80 per cent of the population professes Islam, but Protestantism is gaining ground. The current legislation, which allows registration of all religious organizations, is currently being reviewed, amid concern at the growing popularity amongst young people of the Unification Church and other sects, and of radical Islamic educational organizations. The following is an excerpt from report by Mikhail Nebera entitled “Anyone you want will be registered in Kyrgyzstan”, published in Kyrgyzstan edition of Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda on 29 November. Subheads have been inserted editorially:

In accordance with the current legislation, any religious organization may be registered in Kyrgyzstan. How does the people of our small country manage to withstand the attack by the army of missionaries of all hues? Will the laws on religious affairs be toughened? Will a subject to familiarize schoolchildren with the fundamentals of religion be added to the curriculum? The deputy chairman of the government’s State Commission for Religious Affairs, Natalya Shadrova, answers these questions.

[Correspondent] Natalya Nikolayevna, the space in young people’s consciousness formerly occupied by the Young Communist League ideology and Soviet ideology is now being actively captured by various religious organizations. However, the ideology of the Young Communist League was created and carefully kept under the vigilant eye of the state. Is there any monitoring of the organizations that give religious knowledge?

Young people main target

[Shadrova] It is on young people that religious educational institutions, including reactionary ones, are gambling. The desire is very well-founded: young people strive for new knowledge and are more active and able-bodied. The State Commission for Religious Affairs monitors the activity of religious organizations on the basis of the presidential decree on measures to enable Kyrgyz citizens to exercise their right to freedom of conscience and belief. All religious organizations and educational institutions are registered and afterwards they are kept under constant surveillance.


The state fails to control secret cults

The state commission is fully entitled to monitor the academic process and has all information about the educational plans and the methods of teaching, but only of legal religious schools and institutions of higher education. Apart from them, there may be, for example, madrasahs where missionaries, perhaps from Pakistan, are preaching anti-state ideas. Naturally, such an institution will go deep underground, and it is impossible for us to monitor it.

[Correspondent] So then realistically, you cannot monitor the activity of all religious organizations existing in the country?

[Shadrova] There are only nine members of staff at the State Commission for Religious Affairs. Naturally, we are incapable of encompassing the unencompassable. But we are not faced with such a global task. We must only coordinate the work of various ministries and local government bodies on religious affairs. The state blueprint that considers all issues linked with the activity of religious organizations, the criteria for assessing them and measures to prevent the spread of extremist and radical trends was drawn up back in 1998, but it is still being discussed and coordinated even now.

Muslims comprise 80 per cent of population

[Correspondent] There are very many missionaries from the West in our country. Are there really more Christian educational institutions?

[Shadrova] No, 80 per cent of the indigenous population adheres to Islam. A total of 954 mosques, 42 madrasahs and seven Islamic institutes are operating in Kyrgyzstan. At the same time 250 Christian facilities and 11 religious educational institutions have been registered here, that is a pretty substantial difference, although of late Protestantism has been developing more and more actively.

[Passage omitted: Correspondent says Russia and the CIS countries are introducing a religious subject into the curriculum]; Shadrova says the history and philosophy of world religions will be introduced in Kyrgyzstan as a subject]

[Shadrova] Under no circumstances should there be propaganda and conversion to other faiths, the feelings of believers from other confessions must not be offended. This is inadmissible also because religion is separated from the state and, accordingly, from general secondary schools.

Extremist religious bodies exist here

[Correspondent] Are there educational institutions of extremist religious organizations here?

[Shadrova] You know, there are. For example, the famous Unification Church of [Sun Myung] Moon has a school in which the followers who entered the initial stage are obliged to study for 40 hours to get to know the bases of totalitarianism propagandized at this organization. There are underground schools where young people are initiated into the bases of scientology and dianetics. The universal church teaches its followers occult sciences, without revealing this to general view.

Radical Islamic party operates in the south

Radical Islamic educational organizations with Wahhabite inclinations are also operating, mainly in the south. It is difficult to estimate the number of their graduates. But we know that about 2,500 young men are supporters of the Hezb-e Tahrir [al- Islami] party [which is banned in Kyrgyzstan]. They must have acquired their knowledge somewhere, so an educational structure does exist.

The laws allow cults registration

[Correspondent] How much does the present legislation on religious issues meet the requirements of society and the state?

[Shadrova] In principle, the existing legislative base operates quite well, but it requires additional elaboration at the moment.

[Passage omitted: the law on freedom of belief and religious organizations of 1991 and the presidential decree of 1996 are being improved]

The presidential decree of 1996 allows the registration of any religious organizations, including totalitarian and extremist, which categorically must not be allowed! Freedom and permissiveness must not be confused. At the same time, it is important not to go too far because we can stifle the rudiments of new, good trends. Not all things can be treated alike. A precise definition needs to be given, as well as references, to assess the activity of religious organizations.

Harmful cults must be opposed

I, as a Kyrgyz national, worry about the fate of the present young people because the organizations have appeared that pose a direct threat to the personality of a human being and society as a whole. I have had the opportunity to talk to young people who were diagnosed as having schizophrenia after attending organizations like these. Many of those who managed to break away from there and underwent treatment in psychiatric clinics speak about terrible organizations that turn people into zombies and suppress their personality and affect their psyche. But we are so far powerless to oppose them. The only thing that we tried to do was to set up a rehabilitation centre for those who returned to a normal life.

We have information that small groups have emerged, including the elements of “metal, heavy rock and Satanism“, something symbiotic and terrible. Fortunately, there are no skinheads or neo-fascists here such as are suffocating the whole of Russia, nor do we need them.

During the Soviet time young people were looked after and were kept occupied, though individual freedom was limited. I see today the only way out is to draw up a new national ideology of unity, peace, friendship, accord and solidarity. There is no another way. And I think that we will cope with this because there are more good people than bad.

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