With rise of conservative Islam in Kyrgyzstan, country's liberals question how far religious freedom should go
On February 29, 2012 At 3:42 am
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Islam is on the rise in many central Asian republics, Russia Today reports.
In Kyrgyzstan, which has prided itself on being a secular republic, religion is on the rise in politics and in society.
The country of about 5 1/2 million people has been seeing a dramatic rise in conservative Islam over the past decade. It already has a little over 2,000 mosques. Up to 80% of them were built with some type of partnership with Arab countries, and the government knows little about what is taught in them.
In its public schools, religious wear is prohibited. Muslim students cannot wear full veils in public school, so they either quit school altogether or go to adult education schools with much lower educational standards.
The country's liberals are worried over the rapid change in society and religious norms.
Gulnara Ibrayeva, a university professor, said that she used to support religious freedom, but when she recently visited her home town, she saw that three mosques had been constructed there. She was upset to see young women at the mosques, dressed in black, telling her "not to turn away from Allah."
"It is now a country where I can't tell anyone how to live their lives, but Muslims feel they can," she said. She, like other liberals, worries that if Muslims have full religious freedoms, it will be a matter of time before other basic rights are done away with.