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2017-08-30 | Religion

Kazakhstan considers restrictions on extremist 'external attributes'

View of the parliament buildings in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana in 2010. Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would ban among other things women wearing niqabs in public places. [John MacDougall/AFP]

View of the parliament buildings in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana in 2010. Lawmakers are drafting a bill that would ban among other things women wearing niqabs in public places. [John MacDougall/AFP]

By Arman Kaliyev

ASTANA -- The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society is considering a ban on letting Kazakhstani women wear the niqab in public places, as well as prohibiting any "external attributes" affiliated with destructive ideological movements.

The proposed ban is part of a bill that the ministry is preparing to restrict various forms of behaviour the government suspects could encourage extremism.

"Enacting this [bill on banning niqabs and other external attributes] will make government agencies and civil society institutions involved in religion ... more effective and also prevent the public spread of radical ideas," Berik Aryn, vice minister for religious affairs and civil society, said in Astana last week, according to

"External attributes" include beards, turbans and prayer beads, said Murat Telibekov, chief of the Almaty-based NGO Union of Muslims of Kazakhstan.

Violators of this rule, if it takes effect, face a fine of 100 monthly calculation indexes (MCIs), amounting to almost 230,000 tenge ($690). That fine wold exceed the average monthly wage in Kazakhstan by 64%.

Caravanserai earlier reported on another part of the same proposed bill, which would reduce the number of Kazakhstanis eligible to go abroad for a religious education.

Opinions differ on new regulations

The ministry contends that this proposed prohibition does not violate the rights of citizens, arguing that similar rules have functioned in Europe for several years.

However, some religious scholars are questioning the value of such bans, arguing that they address effects rather than causes.

Punishments and other coercion do not solve the problem, said Yuliya Denisenko, director of the Astana-based Association of Centres for the Study of Religions.

"This [reaction] plays into the hands of destructive forces," she told Caravanserai. "Excessive pressure from authorities gives the local population more cause to sympathise with and support 'martyrs'."

"Above all, we need to increase public trust in the state," she continued. "We need to start this [process] with every citizen.

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Ерлан | 2017-10-02

Destructive elements should be expelled from the country and stripped of their citizenship. The state even tries to make money off them, and is not interested in anything but money - the words prosperity and security are just a smokescreen masking their desire for profit. If the country really cared about its citizens, it should start with the basics: distribute car seats, since the government and lawmakers are so riled up about children's safety. But no, (law enforcement) uses traffic cameras to search for (those who don't have car seats) and ticket them. People's patience is not endless.

Алекс | 2017-09-30

Nonsense... Instead of uncovering extremist sources of financing, locating their leaders, and teaching traditional Islam, they are fighting beards, shorts, and headscarves. Okay, they will shave off the beards and wear pants that are a bit longer - so what?.... Are they going to be different people with different views? Oh, you should be embarrassed and ashamed...

Аяз | 2017-09-20

[People] wear what they please in Europe. Lawmakers in our country have an obsolete, Soviet way of thinking. As they have gotten fatter, so have their brains. They would be better raising salaries for everybody except the fuzz. When will they finally die off? Wait for that, and we will be waiting along with you.

Нуржан | 2017-09-18

This legislation is long overdue. And the fine should be raised for repeat violations. If some people don't like the law, they should go to countries where this [the attributes] is the norm. You are welcome to wear our traditional costumes, if you want to badly enough. They are as good as any other clothing.

Габит | 2017-09-14

Well, [he] shaved off his beard, so what... What did [this] change in [his] mind?

Нуржан | 2017-09-08

People should not be told what to wear, especially when it comes to religion!! The fight against terrorism is not a fight against how someone looks!!! TERRORISM IS IN THE MURDERERS' MINDS AND HEARTS!!!