Kyrgyzstan opens new mosques

By Erkin Kamalov


A new mosque opened in Kyzyl-Jar, Kara-Kulja District, Osh Province, October 1. [Erkin Kamalov]

OSH -- Kyrgyzstan has recently opened several mosques to educate more people and "secure the population from jihadist ideas", clergy and religious scholars said.

"Our society needs support from the clergy, religious scholars, and theologians who can make a positive contribution towards fighting radicalisation," State Religious Affairs Commission spokesman Isakbay Murzabekov said during one of the mosque's opening ceremony earlier this month.

According to Kyrgyzstani Mufti Maksatbek ajy Toktomushev, the state is doing everything it can to secure the population from jihadist ideas, being recruited and other forms of extremism, which uneducated youth are subjected to.

"Opening new mosques is helping improve the religious situation, since it gives Muslims the opportunity to not just pray, but also learn new things, which helps counter extremist ideas and, in general, terrorism," he said.

According to the Spiritual Administration for the Muslims of Kyrgyzstan (DUMK), new mosques were opened in Alaykuu Valley, Kara-Kulja District, Osh Province October 1, in May Village, Manas District, Talas Province October 3, and a new house of worship was opened in Kozho-Aryk, Nookat District, Osh Province October 9.

"We are very glad that Islam, as a peaceful religion, is connecting our fellow villagers, helping us better understand Sharia, and also blocking the path to extremism," Berdibek Tashmatov of Kyzyl-Jar, Kara-Kulja District, Osh Province told Caravanserai.

He said a new mosque in Alaykuu Valley was built using the latest technologies and can hold 160 worshipers.

"The mosque ... contains everything necessary for wudu and other rituals, water heaters, and special rooms for meetings and teaching people who have questions about religion," Tashmatov said.

He said the new house of worship has afforded the clergy the opportunity to converse with doubting Muslims, prevent them from taking wrong steps, and stop the so-called "jihad".

"There are many Muslim peoples in the world today. Our Prophet Muhammad prohibits forcing people to convert using violence. Religious radicalism has nothing in common with true Islam," Toktomushev said during the opening ceremony in Alaykuu Valley.

Toktomushev noted that the mosque has expanded library with books on Islam and other religious literature, which will help worshipers better understand the fundamentals of Islam.

New mosques need highly educated imams, scholars say

Aykanysh Dosbayeva, a historian at Jalal-Abad University, said when the state and society strive to solve local conflicts together, it brings positive results.

However, she believes that opening mosques alone is not enough. The muftiate needs to work closely with the clergy and train them too, so that they can be competent and highly educated, she said.

"New imams and madrassa principals need to be certified," told Caravanserai. "The best of them should have the right to work with the flock. We need to monitor the clergy and ensure that they are accountable. That's the only way to fight with extremism and increase the public's religious literacy."

Working with schools, educating youth

Religious leaders are actively educating the public not just in mosques, but also in schools to protect students from being recruited or from traveling to combat zones, DUMK reported.

"We are working together with officials from the city hall, 10th Police Department, and other relevant agencies to conduct regular meetings with students where we explain how to avoid falling prey to recruiters," Imam Murataly ajy Mansurov of Tash-Kumyr, Jalal-Abad Province told Caravanserai.

The latest meeting took place October 12 in High Schools № 3 and № 5 in Tash-Kumyr, he said, adding that during the meeting, children gained a broad understanding of the values of Islam, and also had the opportunity to ask questions.

"We explain to them how to properly behave with adults and younger ones, and observe moral norms and ethical principles to avoid tough situations in society," Mansurov said.

He said there are 14 schools, one lyceum, and one college in Tash-Kumyr. Students of all of these institutions have the opportunity to meet with theologians and the clergy once a week.

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