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Forum18 – Kyrgyzstan has adopted a law “On combating extremist activity,” which was signed by the new president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, on 19 August. It was the first law to be signed by President Bakiev. Under the new law one form of “extremism” is “to assert the exclusivity, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of their attitude to religion or their social, racial, national, religious or linguistic group”.

This wide-ranging definition of extremism, not linked with any crimes or other acts against others, leaves open the possibility of it being applied to the self-understanding of all religious communities. But religious communities Forum 18 News Service spoke to had mainly not read the law, and did not see it as a current threat.

“Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religious minorities are not stirring up national or religious hatred and therefore the law on combating religious extremism cannot be applied to them. The law on combating extremist activity does not apply only to religious believers. For the time being, at least, we will apply this law only to the Hizb-ut-Tahrir party whose leaflets contain openly anti-Semitic sentiments,” Kanybek Malabayev, a leading specialist at the Kyrgyz government’s Religious Affairs Committee, told Forum 18 on 18 October. An outline of Hizb-ut-Tahir’s policy cabn be found at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=170

Father Aleksandr Kan of the Catholic Church told Forum 18 on 18 October in the capital, Bishkek, that “I didn’t even know that a new law had been adopted. We have no problems with the authorities.” Fr Kan ‘s view was echoed by Kuban Abylkasymov, pastor of the Protestant Presbyterian church in Karakol, the central town in the eastern Isyk-Kul region, speaking to Forum 18 by telephone on 19 October. “We have heard about the new law, but have not read it. So far at least this law has not had any effect on our relations with the authorities,” he said. Anatoli Malnik is a member of the Council of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Kazakhstan , which governs its fellow believers throughout Central Asia . He told Forum 18 by telephone from Almaty on 17 October that “so far at least we do not have any problems with the Kyrgyz authorities.”

Vasili Kuzin, senior pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ, commented to Forum 18’s on 17 October in Bishkek that “in Kyrgyzstan laws don’t have any meaning, only verbal orders. So we have not read the law. Every so often the authorities carry out random checks on our daughter churches in the provinces, but I don’t think this has anything to do with the adoption of a new law or with the events in Andijan.”…[Go To Full Story]