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'New Muslims' appeared in Kazakhstan: Expert

23 november 2011, 13:27
Traditional Islam that is often nominal is conventional for Kazakhstan. But lately a new phenomenon of 'new Muslims' has manifested itself in Central Asian region, Tengrinews.kz reports citing an expert of Altynbek Sarsenbaiuly foundation Alma Sultangaliyeva as saying at the international press-conference in Almaty called New Trends in Development of Islam and their Effect on Stability in Central Asia organized by Exclusive magazine and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

“One trend is uniting all countries of the region: gradual diversification inside Islam. The 'new Muslims' phenomenon is appearing. The faiths for such 'new Muslims' is not related to national culture. Calling themselves the followers of “pure” Islam, or Salafis, they are isolating themselves from the majority of “traditional” Muslims, demonstrating their “Islamity” in behavior and clothes,” the expert said.

The strive of the governments to control religious life via legislative acts, for example, adoption of the laws regulating activities of religious unions, is common for all the countries of the Central Asian region. However, the principle of separation of the state from religion is not followed first of all by the state itself, Sultangaliyeva said adding that “recruitment of the Islamic religious leaders, division of Islam into “good” traditional and “bad” non-traditional, including via official or unofficial support of “moderate” Islam, e.g. Hanafiyah (Tajikistan, Kazakhstan) politicizes Islam”.

According to Sultangaliyeva, more attention is currently given to rituals, external part of the religion: the correct way of praying, proper clothes, etc. The majority of the Islamic literature sold in the country covers only these topics. Besides, all the neophytes, or “new Muslims” are obsessed with purity of the religious lifestyle: what is forbidden and what is allowed. At the same time, the necessity of correlation of the Islamic norms and the modern lifestyle is being ignored. Transnational movements like Akhmadiya community, Tabligi Jamaat that are new for Central Asia are now spreading in the region. The search for local Islamic roots, e.g. Sufism, has started at the same time.

According to the expert, the meaning of religiousness and its association with extremism is overrated. For example, Islamic “dress-code” (hijabs, beards, short trousers) is associated with extremism. At the same time none of the countries of the region are openly discussing the role of Islam in the society, which causes growth of mutual suspiciousness between “serious” believers and the nominal majority of the population.

“With the majority of the population of the Central Asian countries not being supportive of religious radicalism, Islam is not a matter of political choice. But deterioration of the life quality and further narrowing of the vertical social mobility may result in religious defferences bieng used as justification. Although even in such case it will have its own features in every country of the region,” the speaker said.

By Zhuldyz Seisenbekova

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