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Kazakhstan Parliament adopted Religious Law

Thursday, 29.09.2011, 15:00
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Kazakhstan Parliament adopted Religious Law
©Ria Novosti/Valeriy Melnikov
Today, September 29, Kazakhstan Parliament adopted the law On religious activities and religious institutions, Tengrinews.kz reports. The document has been submitted to the President for signature.

At the joint sitting of the two Parliament chambers September 1 President Nursultan Nazarbayev called to protect Kazakhstan from religious extremism. He noted the necessity to adopt the law On religious activities and religious institutions. “We need to put our common house in order”, the President said, emphasizing that “interfaith accord is one of the fundamentals of the unity of the nation”.

The draft law prepared by Kazakhstan State Agency for Religion caused many arguments among public associations and members of the Parliament. The arguments mainly focused on the provisions banning praying in public offices. MP Bekbolat Tleukhan, for example, said that adoption of these provisions may cause a spread of religious extremism in Kazakhstan. Head of the Religions Agency Kairat Lama Sharif gave several facts against this opinion. But the arguments did not finish after that. MP Nurlan Onerbai asked Lama Sharif to apologize for the proposed draft law and took Bekbolat Tleukhan's side.

The arguments during discussions of the Religious Law went out of the main text of the document. Even though the law does not have any provisions concerning Islamic clothes, the Parliament members spent long time in high-pitched arguments over this topic. Deputy Bekbolat Tleukhan suggested to ban Kazakh women from showing belly-buttons and preserve their right to wear hijabs. Kairat Lama Sharif said that he is not planning to ban wearing hijabs by the law and noted: “Hijab is not a religious clothes and the most important is that every Kazakh woman understands this.”

Deputy Kamal Burkhanov also expressed his opinion on the clothes topic and said that Kazakhstan has to follow the path of its own ancestors, who never wore clothes as religious symbols, and should not create proconditions for a spiritual split of the nation’s society. “This should not happen, and our community should not allow the doctrines that are foreign to us penetrate our minds. Yes, we are on good terms with Arabs, Persians, Uzbeks and other Islamic people. But being an nation, we, Kazakhs, have our own rich culture, that we have to save for our future generations,” the deputy stated.

American human right organization Freedom House called Kazakhstan Senate to dismiss the draft Religious Law. According to the organization, draft Religion Law will “grossly curb Kazakhstani citizens’ right to freely practice and express their faith.”

Today Chairman of Kazakhstan State Agency for Religion Kairat Lama Sharif explained the term “secular state” to Senators and called Kazakhstan residents to be tolerant.
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