Islam in Kazakhstan

Islam in Kazakhstan

Islam is the largest religion practiced in Kazakhstan. Ethnic Kazakhs are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. [ International Religious Freedom Report 2006] U.S. Embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan] Statistics based on the Muslim population in Kazakhstan varies a lot, it contributes to around 50% of the population or more, it is stated Islam is practiced by 47% of the population by the CIA and US Department of State in 1994 [ [ World Factbook - Kazakhstan] CIA] [ [ Background Note: Kazakhstan] U.S. Department of State] [ [ International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Kazakhstan] ] ,53% by the Daik-Press in 2003 [cite book
last = Dzhalilov
first = Z.
title = Islam and Society in Modern Kazakhstan
publisher = Daik-Press
date = 2006
location = Almaty
pages = pp.185
] , and 57% according to the Embassy of UK in 2007citeweb|url=|title=Country Profile 2007 (p.4)|accessdate=2007-06-21] .


Islam was brought to the Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabs arrived into Central Asia. Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward. [Atabaki, Touraj. "Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora", pg. 24] Islam also took root due to the zealous missionary work of Samanid rulers, notably in areas surrounding Taraz [Ibn Athir, volume 8, pg. 396] where a significant number of Kazakhs accepted Islam. Additionally, in the late 1300s, the Golden Horde propagated Islam amongst the Kazakhs and other Central Asian tribes. During the 1700s, Russian influence toward the region rapidly increased throughout Central Asia. Led by Catherine, the Russians initially demonstrated a willingness in allowing Islam to flourish as Muslim clerics were invited into the region to preach to the Kazakhs whom the Russians viewed as "savages" and "ignorant" of morals and ethics. [Khodarkovsky, Michael. "Russia's Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800", pg. 39.] Ember, Carol R. and Melvin Ember. "Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures", pg. 572] However, Russian policy gradually changed toward weakening Islam by introducing pre-Islamic elements of collective consciousness.Hunter, Shireen. "Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security", pg. 14] Such attempts included methods of eulogizing pre-Islamic historical figures and imposing a sense of inferiority by sending Kazakhs to highly elite Russian military institutions. In response, Kazakh religious leaders attempted to bring religious fervor by espousing pan-Turkism, though many were persecuted as a result. [Farah, Caesar E. "Islam: Beliefs and Observances", pg. 304] During the Soviet era, Muslim institutions survived only in areas where Kazakhs significantly outnumbered non-Muslims due to everyday Muslim practices. [Farah, Caesar E. "Islam: Beliefs and Observances", pg. 340] In an attempt to conform Kazakhs into Communist ideologies, gender relations and other aspects of the Kazakh culture were key targets of social change.

In more recent times however, Kazakhs have gradually employed determined effort in revitalizing Islamic religious institutions after the fall of the Soviet Union. While not strongly fundamentalist, Kazakhs continue to identify with their Islamic faith, [Page, Kogan. "Asia and Pacific Review 2003/04", pg. 99] and even more devotedly in the countryside. Those who claim descent from the original Muslim warriors and missionaries of the 8th century, command substantial respect in their communities. [Atabaki, Touraj. "Central Asia and the Caucasus: transnationalism and diaspora".] Kazakh political figures have also stressed the need to sponsor Islamic awareness. For example, the Kazakh Foreign Affairs Minister, Marat Tazhin, recently emphasized that Kazakhstan attaches importance to the use of "positive potential Islam, learning of its history, culture and heritage." [ [ | 154837 ] ]

Soviet authorities attempted to encourage a controlled form of Islam under the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan as a unifying force in the Central Asian societies, while at the same time prohibiting true religious freedom. Since independence, religious activity has increased significantly. Construction of mosques and religious schools accelerated in the 1990s, with financial help from Turkey, Egypt, and, primarily, Saudi Arabia. In 1991 170 mosques were operating, more than half of them newly built. At that time an estimated 230 Muslim communities were active in Kazakhstan.

Islam and the state

In 1990 Nursultan Nazarbayev, then the First Secretary of the Kazakhstan Communist Party, created a state basis for Islam by removing Kazakhstan from the authority of the Muslim Board of Central Asia, the Soviet-approved and politically oriented religious administration for all of Central Asia. Instead, Nazarbayev created a separate muftiate, or religious authority, for Kazakh Muslims. [ Country Study - Kazakhstan] Library of Congress]

With an eye toward the Islamic governments of nearby Iran and Afghanistan, the writers of the 1993 constitution specifically forbade religious political parties. The 1995 constitution forbids organizations that seek to stimulate racial, political, or religious discord, and imposes strict governmental control on foreign religious organizations. As did its predecessor, the 1995 constitution stipulates that Kazakhstan is a secular state; thus, Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian state whose constitution does not assign a special status to Islam. This position was based on the Nazarbayev government's foreign policy as much as on domestic considerations. Aware of the potential for investment from the Muslim countries of the Middle East, Nazarbayev visited Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia; at the same time, however, he preferred to cast Kazakhstan as a bridge between the Muslim East and the Christian West. For example, he initially accepted only observer status in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), all of whose member nations are predominantly Muslim. The president's first trip to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, which occurred in 1994, was part of an itinerary that also included a visit to Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.

ee also

* Religion in Kazakhstan
* Islam in Central Asia
* Islam in the Soviet Union

Further reading

* cite journal
last = Karagiannis
first = Emmanuel
year = 2007
month = April
title = The Rise of Political Islam in Kazakhstan: Hizb Ut-Tahrir Al Islami
journal = Nationalism and Ethnic Politics
volume = 13
issue = 2
pages = 297–322
doi = 10.1080/13537110701293567

* cite journal
last = Rorlich
first = Azade-Ayse
year = 2003
month = June
title = Islam, Identity and Politics: Kazakhstan, 1990-2000
journal = Nationalities Papers
volume = 31
issue = 2
pages = 157–176
doi = 10.1080/00905990307127


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