The problem of radicalization of Islam was discussed in Kyrgyzstan
Representative Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in the KR organized a roundtable with participation of representative of state bodies, muftiate, experts and mass media in Osh.
In his opening speech for the roundtable on the topic “Radicalization of Islam in Kyrgyzstan: challenges and responses”, the regional director of IWPR in Central Asia Abakhon Sultonnazarov emphasized that radicalization of Islam had become one of the major problems of all the countries in Central Asia, and there is a strong necessity for close cooperation between various structures and institutions of Central Asia, in order to effectively resist the spread of destructive ideas and involvement of increasing number of young people, especially women, in extremist organizations.
“Women along with men actively promote radical ideas and create women’s groups. Today the number of women involved in extremist organizations is 23 percent, whereas in 2001, their number was 1 percent”, said Abakhon Sultonnazarov.
According to the data of law enforcement bodies, to date, there have been registered 1866 supporters of extremist ideas on the territory of Kyrgyzstan (in 2014, their number was 1703), most of them are adherents of “Hizb-ut-Tahrir”, a religious extremist organization -1361 people (in 2014 – 1307). It is obvious that the real number of supporters and adherents of radical Islamic organizations is much greater, and this trend is only growing, as it is connected, first of all, with basic social-economic problems, the issues of effective work of central and local institutions.
In addition, another important factor is religious education of low quality, as the population mostly hears the distorted and often incorrect ideas of Islam from incompetent propagandists – this was especially emphasized by representatives of the Spriritual Board of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan and the State Commission for Religious Affairs.
Deputy Mufti Ravshan ajy Eratov noted that, first of all, the religion itself, its authority and ordinary believers suffer from the incorrect interpretation and distortion of the holy ideas of Islam.
«Radicalization of Islam is taking place not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in all Muslim countries. To solve this problem, we must strictly follow the Koran and our religion, not deviate and misinterpret», said Ravshan ajy Eratov.
Eratov condemned the murder, tortures and pain-causing actions by Islamist radicals against other people and said that those actions were a terrible sin, and they could not be forgiven. As evidence of his words, he cited a number of pacifist sayings of the Muslim holy book and once again appealed to all believers and those interested to scrutinize the Koran.
“When ignoring or misunderstanding certain things in religion, one should not interpret things in one’s own way. It is necessary to turn to Muftiate, to reputable and recognized experts or theologians. Prophet Muhammad himself told that in case of questions, one should address the respected people, those who know the answers”, said the deputy mufti.
«Therefore, it is necessary to understand correctly and believe, and follow the true path, because distortion and misinterpretation cause trouble: split among Moslems, disturbing the peace, causing damage and using arms, – added the deputy mufti. – This only does harm to Islam, its authority in the eyes of believers and of the global population» .
Speaking of government measures, the representative of the State Commission for Religious Affairs Borumukhamed Esenov said that the government had created all necessary conditions for peaceful co-existence and development of various denominations and unbanned movements, including Islamic.
Esenov added that since Kyrgyzstan gained independence, the country followed the path of a multi-religious state, and today, there are more than 30 various registered religious organizations, more than 2000 mosques and dozens of various charity and other foundations, financed mostly from abroad.
«The process of radicalization of Islam began in the late 1990s, to the great extent thanks to external support, and this trend is growing. Of course, there were also internal reasons for that», emphasized the representative of the State Commissions for Religious Affairs Esenov.
«To effectively resist this trend, we must pay attention to the thorough, correct and high-quality religious education, because this process starts because of low-quality education. Incompetent people misinterpret norms of Islam and spread them among population, and they call for making Kyrgyzstan an Islamic state. It is very dangerous, and this energy should be directed onto another, positive and creative way», added Esenov.
The representative of the State Commissions for Religious Affairs noted the importance of such roundtables together with experts, with all the parties concerned who can do something in the fight against radical and extremist ideas, and expressed gratitude to the Representative Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) for organization of that roundtable.
Doctor of theological sciences Zaylabidin Azhimamatov expressed full agreement with the words of the representative of the Spiritual Board of Muslims and the State Commission on the need for proper understanding and high-quality education in Islamic faiths. In his speech, he briefly explained the essence of all the basic problems of Islam, their history, in particular, extremism, radicalism and Jihad, and the absolute lack of connection of these negative phenomena with the true religion.
Speaking of the prevention and direct fight against extremists, the head of the Anti-Religious Radicalism Department, head of the 10th department of the Ministry for Internal Affairs Emil Jeenbekov told about the anti-radialism, anti-extremist and prevention measures taken by the police.
During his speech, Jeenbekov demonstrated his deep understanding of the issue and noted that their main objective is not the oppression of religion but the elimination of negative elements on the way to peaceful life in the country and to harmonious co-existence of all citizens of KR.
«If possible, the problem of radicalization should be solved by peaceful methods, not by radical and stern methods, because the latter can bring about the opposite effect. Therefore, in our country, we follow the careful and soft approach in dealing with this problem, – said the representative of the MIF. – But there are also problems in legislation. There are certain gaps in normative acts, the elimination of which could help us improve the efficiency of our work.»
After presentations, there was active discussion on a number of specific and large-scale issues related to the problem of radicalization. The question of correct and professional coverage of these issues by journalists was also touched – experts, religious leaders and representatives of state structures noted the necessity of education for journalists, too.
This roundtable is a kind of preparation for the regional conference on the issues of Islam in Central Asia organized by IWPR, which will take place in Bishkek in early December 2015. At the moment, country offices of IWPR in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are holding similar roundtables, as a result of which, specialists from three countries will be able to discuss together the common problems, find and suggest possible coordinated solutions. Another roundtable on this topic will be held in Bishkek on November 18. Employees of IWPR will additionally inform about it.
Organization of this event became possible thanks to the financial support from the Delegation of the European Union and the Government of Norway.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) is a British media organization working in the countries of crisis regions to support and develop local journalism, produces analytical materials from these regions that are published on the website of IWPR. The Representative Office of IWPR has been working in Kyrgyzstan since 1999.
For more information, please, contact the program manager of the Representative Office Meerim Shamudinova: 0 (312) 313097, firstname.lastname@example.org