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Causes And Consequences Of The Religious Instability In Kyrgyzstan

Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 00:10

Research shows that, despite the low level of religiosity of the population, the religious situation in Kyrgyzstan remains unstable and the pre-conflict; it is capable of transforming into one of catastrophic nature under certain conditions. The reasons of the both deep and situational nature are at the heart of such a possible sharp turn in the religious development of the situation. These reasons are connected primarily to the increasing influence of religion on the political processes occurring in the country. The root causes of the religious instability include the unprecedented growth of injustice in the social relations and the use of Islam by both global and local political forces as an ideology. The said forces assert people that the injustice can be overcome only by living and governing the state in accordance with the Sharia laws. Another root cause is the inconsistency between Islam's social status at the times of its establishment and at the present times in many Muslim theocratic countries, and Islam's status in the secular countries, including Kyrgyzstan. The list of situational reasons includes:


the inconsistency between the country's development objectives and the objectives that are being widespread in Kyrgyzstan and infiltrated into the traditional Muslim religious organization by the destructive and extremist religious organizations that are controlled by global and regional geopolitical forces;


the inconsistency between the government actions in the sphere of religious relations and the rules of relations between the state and religion that have been accepted and declared by the government;


the unprecedented weakening – due to the crisis country is going through – of the work of the social sphere institutions and the politicization of religion.


The current situation prevailing in the social relations in Kyrgyzstan is characterized as extremely tense: an unprecedented impoverishment of the population (36.4 percent of the population are below the poverty line), the growth of unemployment (12 percent of the total population), the 25-fold income gap between the rich and poor, the inability of the citizens – especially the poor – to exercise their vital civil rights due to the corruption of officials and judges. In other words, the situation in the society is forcing people to organize themselves in order to defend their interests. Taking into account the fact that our country has neither political forces that are strongly inclined to defend the rights of citizens, nor such political forces that the people may trust, the political self-organization of people based on religion becomes the only possible option. In turn, this could lead to a widespread popular support for the extremist religious organizations operating under the banner of building a just society based on Sharia. In reality, it would mean a massive disregard of the existing laws: the political and religious relations will go out of the legal field, as the practice shows that religious organizations are not able to establish order according to the Sharia laws and, most importantly, this can not be done except by force. In fact, not the Sharia laws will be enacted, as the leaders and members of religious organizations think; it will likely be lawlessness.


One of the root causes that result in a permanently unstable religious situation and sometimes lead to the aggravation of the flow of religious relations in Kyrgyzstan is the fact that “in practice, rather than according to the constitution, the position of Islam (given that Muslims constitute the overwhelming majority of the population) depends on the state, which is contrary to its genetic characteristics of constituting the state.” The fact is, this religion – through the actions of the citizens and religious organizations practicing it – “will seek to be realized in the initially planned, dominant social status, although the actual prevailing religious relations in the country are fully compliant with both mentality and experience of the Kyrgyz people in terms of building relations between the state and religion.” The religious situation will always remain unstable due to the fact that the status of religion that has settled in the lives of the people of Kyrgyzstan historically is difficult to overcome; perhaps, it is practically impossible to change. With the confrontation of the two practices of Islam, the extremist religious organizations can only achieve the desired status of Islam by force.


The situational cause of the instability of religious relations in Kyrgyzstan is the widespread extremist and destructive religious organizations in the country. The extremist organizations announce that their ultimate aim is building a global caliphate and transferring the state power to the clergy. The destructive religious organizations are aimed at destruction of the cultural and civilizational foundations of society through the spread of destructive religious ideas. At the present time – not without the help of the head of state – the traditional Muslim religious organization has been placed under the control of “Tablighi Jamaat” (head of the Muslim Board Toktomushev Maksat is one of the leaders of the religious organization), which is considered extremist in many countries. Moreover, the “Tablighi Jamaat,” adhering to the tactics of non-interference in politics and preferring preaching and propaganda, has almost achieved the adoption of its version of Islam by all Muslim believers. Under the guise of davaat (call to Islam), in all the 2,362 mosques of the organization, they have managed to create a strictly hierarchic strike group from among the believers who are ideological prepared to comply with the goals of “Tablighi Jamaat” and ready to perform any task of their “amir” leaders. Davaat is carried out collectively, in groups of 3, 10 or 20 people for three, forty days or four months and leaving for other towns in order to promote religion. However, everyone understands that such a highly disciplined organizational structure is created not only for the promotion of religion. What if the leaders suddenly decide that they are ready to forcibly transfer the organizational state power to the clergy (as stipulated in the objectives of “Tablighi Jamaat”), and give the order to storm the government building.


The list of the situational reasons of the unstable religious situation in Kyrgyzstan also includes the inconsistency between the government actions in the sphere of religious relations and the rules of relations between the state and religion that have been accepted and declared by the government. “On the one hand, under the guise of combating religious extremism, there are secretly introduced restrictions on the activities of religious organizations similar to those in force during the Soviet era. On the other hand, religion is beginning to be used in the political struggle – for purely tactical purposes.” The tacit participation of the state in the election of the head of the Muslim Board and the heads of regional organizations can not be called anything other than a direct involvement of the state in the affairs of the largest traditional Muslim religious organization. In other words, where it is necessary to limit the powers of the religious organizations and the scope of the religion, the state expand them: the opening of prayer rooms in state institutions, the conduct of davaat, the registration of the extremist religious organization “Tablighi Jamaat” that is banned in many countries and other destructive religious organizations (Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Scientology), the authorization of the de facto religious party “Uluu Kyrgyzstan” to participate in elections, etc. And where it is really necessary to expand the powers of religious organizations, the state narrows them: in particular, the government interferes in the internal activities of religious organizations. Here, the instability of the religious situation lies in the fact that religious organizations will always try by all means, not excluding the use of force, to withdraw from the situation.


The instability of the religious situation is also explained by the fact that the crisis, which Kyrgyzstan experienced during the Soviet (stagnant) times and the post-Soviet period, has led to an unprecedented weakening of the state institutions of the social sphere. So, if there is no progress, such a state of the public institutions can lead to a gradual transfer of many of their functions to religion, and hence – to a disproportionate strengthening of the role of religion in the social and political processes taking place in the republic. Even today, the religious knowledge of the world order, the cultural and spiritual religious standards are becoming dominant in our society. There emerge political parties and public associations that actively push the religious ideas of ​​creating a theocratic polity and various religious ways (extremely archaic in their nature) of solving the social problems. On the other hand, there increases the number of people worried about this disproportionate penetration of religion in all spheres of life, and the fact that the religion is rather insistently imposing the extremely archaic norms of behavior on the citizens. In short, the struggle between these two tendencies caused by the weakening of public institutions is leading to an aggravation of social relations.


The fact that the religious situation in the country is unstable is also confirmed by the information obtained through a poll on the subjective and objective aspects of religiosity, which we quoted in the previous articles. They also show that the increasing number of the faithful people does not result in an increase in the religiosity of the population. The number of deeply religious people is not growing, as many think. There is a simple increase in the number of persons (zombied, uneducated, unemployed, destitute people) holding certain ideological religious views of life and public order. In other words, the spread of politicized religious ideas – and not of religion as such – is actively creating a fertile ground for the conflict occurrence of the religious processes. After all, due to the lack of education and the miserable wellbeing of people, they easily accept a particular religion as the only correct one, and the other – not only religions, but also the views of life – as extremely harmful to the individual and society. This transforms faith not just into superstition, but into furious militant obscurantism.


Overcoming the mentioned contradictions in the religious attitudes and imparting the religious situation with a sustainable nature requires, above all, eliminating corruption in the work of the state authorities that are in charge of this area, stopping the state intervention in the activities of religious organizations, maintaining strict control over the observance of the Kyrgyz Republic's legislation by the subjects of religious relations, and banning davaat and prayer rooms in public institutions, as well as introducing a ban on mass prayers in the central squares. The government should develop special laws aimed at removing the problems associated with the conduct of religious activities that violate the equality of religions and human rights; implement an effective social policy aimed at raising the level of welfare, social and legal protection of people. It is necessary to take complex measures aimed at raising the quality of education and scientific research and the widespread dissemination of scientific knowledge among the population. The extremist (“Tablighi Jamaat”) and destructive (Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Scientology) faith-based organizations should be banned.


The Muslim Board should strongly dissociate themselves from the non-traditional, religious extremist organizations, especially from the “Tablighi Jamaat.” On the basis of the key requirements of the Quran, they should reformulate the centuries-long principles of traditional Islam that fully comply with the mentality and history of the statehood of the Kyrgyz people – the principles that exclude the interference of religion in the state affairs and its imposition on people; the principle in which the state is regarded as a national shrine and a gift revealed to the people by Allah. The Muslim Board should cooperate with foreign religious centers on a parity basis and focus their activities on calling people to God and righteous living. On the basis of these principles (just like it's done in many countries), it is necessary to develop a nationally oriented domestic strict rules of the operation of the local Muslim religious organization and the conduct of ministers of religion and believers.

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