Foreign Policy Blogs

Tolerance or Preventing Extremism?

The Kyrgyz government is now discussing a new draft law on "Freedom of Religious Practices and Religious Organizations." An article by Erica Marat, Religious Authorities in Kyrgyzstan Play Politics, discusses the politics of the new law. She says that the political discourse in Kyrgyzstan is concerned with the spread of "Islamic fundamentalism" and that the "law purports to prevent the emergence of "totalitarian' religious organizations." The main method today of preventing radical sects of Islam or the spread of fringe religious groups is introducing harsher requirements for registration. The governments justify such registration procedures on the basis of national and public security. Major fears center on the ideas that new religious groups will be far more active in proselytizing and that there will be a spread of "potential foreign religious groups." Just as in Tajikistan, there is a growing state-sponsored fear that mosques are exponentially increasing in number and that the younger generation is being attracted to more radical ideas. There are currently 1,668 mosques and religious schools in Kyrgyzstan. In Tajikistan, the government has been closing some mosques and religious schools because registration procedures were improperly followed. There is also a draft law in Tajikistan which provides new restrictions similar to the initiative in Kyrgyzstan , such as increasing the number of petition signatures to officially register a religious organization. Both governments wish to be seen as tolerant, although Ms. Marat says, this is "while building an image of being in control of extremist organizations." Currently, in Tajikistan, the government is particularly worried that the Islamic Salafi school of thought is gaining ground, and, therefore, it tries especially hard to control the religious communities and their activities. There is also a particularly strong fear of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir movement and new Christian groups.



Karin Esposito

Karin Esposito is blogging on religion and politics from her base in Central Asia. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Tajikistan Dialogue Project in Dushanbe. The Project is run through the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies with the support of PDIV of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to establish practical mechanisms for co-existence and peaceful conflict resolution between Islamic and secular representatives in Tajikistan. After receiving a Juris Doctorate from Boston University School of Law in 2007, she worked in Tajikistan for the Bureau of Human Rights and later as a Visting Professor of Politics and Law at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics, and Strategic Research (KIMEP). Ms. Esposito also holds a Master's in Contemporary Iranian Politics (2007) from the School of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and a Master's in International Relations (2003) from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (GIIDS) in Switzerland.

Areas of Focus:
Islam; Christianity; Secularism;