NUR-SULTAN -- The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan (DUMK) is developing partnerships with its counterparts from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to bolster joint efforts and better prevent extremism in the region.
DUMK Chairman Supreme Mufti Serikbay kazhy Oraz met on April 22 with a Kyrgyz delegation led by Mufti Maksatbek kazhy Toktomushev in Nur-Sultan.
At the meeting, "the parties discussed relations between the fraternal countries in religious matters and the course of work carried out as part of the Memorandum of Mutual Understanding signed by the religious administrations of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan," DUMK said in a statement.
"In addition, the muftis of the two countries exchanged views on the importance of adopting fatwas on general religious issues and on the importance of celebrating religious holidays on the same day," it added.
Earlier, on April 18, Oraz met with a delegation led by the mufti of Uzbekistan, Usmonkhon Alimov, also in Nur-Sultan.
"The muftis of the two countries talked about the projects implemented as part of the memorandum of mutual co-operation between the religious administrations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan," DUMK said.
The muftis' meetings came after Nur-Sultan hosted the "International Scientific Theological Conference - The Spiritual Silk Road" on April 11-12. The conference focused on "Islam and Youth: Challenges of Our Times."
The conference was attended by about 300 delegates, including the supreme muftis of the countries of Central Asia and of other countries, as well as the directors of various government agencies and public figures.
Participants discussed preventing youth radicalisation and providing accurate religious information, according to DUMK.
The conference included reports on various themes, as well as videos "aimed at consolidating the efforts of religious leaders of neighbouring countries, sharing experiences, introducing new approaches to global religious issues and strengthening inter-ethnic and interfaith dialogue", the organisation said in a statement on April 11.
Minister of Information and Social Development of Kazakhstan Dauren Abayev acknowledged at the conference the problems of radicalism and extremism.
"These are serious social and spiritual challenges that require the consolidation of efforts from all of us, the state, and academic and religious figures," Abayev said.
"The role of joint activities and constant co-operation on various platforms and levels" is increasing in the region, he emphasised.
Spiritual leaders at the conference called on Muslims living in Central Asia to fulfill common goals.
In that regard, the directors and specialists of the fatwa departments of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan met during the conference to discuss shared dates for the beginning and end of the month of Ramadan this year.
It is necessary to systematise the Muslim calendar, they concluded, agreeing to start the month of Ramadan on the same day.
"Starting the holy month of Ramadan on the same day is also symbolic," Birjan Majenov, a deputy (naib) imam from Almaty Province, told Caravanserai.
"Strengthening relationships among the spiritual administrations of our neighbouring countries is important both for the work being done and for all believers," he said. "There should be no contradictions -- together we are stronger."
"Such meetings of representatives of the spiritual administrations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan at various sites help to solve all the issues that arise and to unite our efforts," Majenov said.
"In the modern world, we should not act in isolation but act only together, openly discussing all problems, and find effective solutions," he said.
Role of youth
"Youth and Islam, the role of religion in our secular Kazakhstan and in other countries of Central Asia, and the willingness of society, the state and representatives of spiritual administrations of different countries to jointly discuss the most acute problems of today were the most important topics," Sanjar Suleimenov, a theologian from Taraz, told Caravanserai.
Coming together to prevent radicalisation in the region was a "great achievement" for the conference participants, he added.
A "spiritual map" for Silk Road countries proposed by Oraz "will co-ordinate the work of spiritual administrations, including on the prevention of extremism, educational work and work with young people," he said.
Kazakhstan declared 2019 the Year of Youth to highlight the importance of the upbringing of an intelligent, competent and responsible young generation, according to Suleimenov.
"Tomorrow they will occupy responsible posts in the civil service, become young parents and the engines of change in the country," he said.
"Where we go further toward progressive change or stagnate instead ... this will depend, among other things, on our youth," he added.