There’s a new report on religious freedom in Kyrgyzstan. It is instructive because there is a substantial Muslim population in the country formerly a part of the Soviet Union.
“As in other Central Asian republics, authorities in Kyrgyzstan have banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international Islamic organization advocating the creation of a region-wide Islamic caliphate and a return to Islam in its pure, original form.
“Ambassador Markus Muller, head of the Bishkek mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), agrees with Rotar’s assessment. ‘The religious groups in general are working and functioning here very freely,’ Muller said. ‘And I did not hear [of] any major problems.’ But he added that there may be one exception — Hizb ut-Tahrir, which he said ‘is considered by some people as a militant Islamic group. The group [has] faced some problems.’
“According to Rotar, the most serious problem is the authorities’ temptation to launch a campaign against Christian proselytism. The correspondent says Protestant missionaries are actively working in southern Kyrgyzstan, which arouses great displeasure among the local population.
“‘The policy of freedom followed [by the] Kyrgyz authorities [allows] proselytism. Now, maybe for authorities proselytism will become a big problem [because it] may provoke conflicts in the south of Kyrgyzstan, [where] 30 percent of the population is Uzbek. And these people are very [devout Muslims] and are very unhappy that Protestant priests can preach freely,’ Rotar said.”
Horrors. Non-Muslims can preach freely? What will come of that?
“Occasionally, rural communities shun Christian converts and try to exile them or refuse to let them be buried in the local cemetery.
“But according to Markus Miller of the OSCE, there is no negative opinion in general against new religions. He stressed that all religions, including Islam, are developing — much as they are elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
“‘[New religions] are observed. People are very much attentive to their work. But for the time being they have not had any major problem. Religion itself is becoming a topic again. And people discuss religion, they are becoming religious again. Now the [Protestants], the Catholics, the Orthodox but also the Muslims [are] developing again. They are filling a vacuum which was created during the Soviet times,’ Miller said.
“Nevertheless, Bishkek resident Stalbek Nurmambet-uulu says there are risks of conflict, even in the capital’s surroundings. ‘Religious diversity creates different opinions in the society and could lead to divisions between the people. Some religious sects are using this moment when people are experiencing hardship and poverty. They are attracting Kyrgyz youth from outside Bishkek. They convert them by using tricky methods. In these areas, there are risks of clashes. I think we have to work more to explain Islamic rules,’ Nurmambet-uulu said.”
Exactly so, Nurmambet-uulu. In the developing religious freedom of Kyrgyzstan, Christians and Muslims are free to battle it out in the marketplace of ideas. That is the exact opposite of dhimmitude. Let us hope that the Muslim rage against this will not overwhelm religious freedom in this nation.