Kyrgyzstan is exposed to intrusion of extremist groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan
24.kg quotes Kadyr Malikov, Chief of an Independent Analytic Research Centre – Religion, Right, Politics, saying that ”Kyrgyzstan is highly exposed to intrusion of Afghan and Pakistan extremist groups with possible involvement of external forces.” Kadyr Malikov, Doctor of Political Science and Islamic Studies (Madrid University), further explains that it is due to the large-scale anti-terrorist operations that have recently been held in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Malikov concludes that in order to avoid possible negative effects in case militants cross borders of Kyrgyzstan, the Kyrgyz government must closely collaborate with civil society and Muslim community in southern Kyrgyzstan, especially with “official clergy, religious leaders” and come up with effective ideological counter-strategy. Kadyr Malikov makes serious points that state officials and all those who are involved in decision making process must pay their attention to.
First, the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan concerning Islamic matters remains very fragile. After Nookat events in October 2008, when the local officials did not allow Muslims to celebrate religious holiday in the center of Nookat that resulted in mass disorder and imprisonment of many people, Muslim community’s opinion in the South had changed negatively towards the government. Given local people’s great interest in conspiracy theories (as they give quick answers), there are rumors in Muslim community of southern Kyrgyzstan that state officials collaborate with Jewish organizations, and as a result, put pressure on Muslims in the country. There is a hatred and distrust of the government among people. As a result, many of them might join the militants if they come to Kyrgyzstan.
Second, the Kyrgyz government does not have a clear strategy in dealing with religious issues. The current politics of Kyrgyzs officials makes me think that they are doing nothing but copying the religious politics in neighboring states like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – disproportional use of force and severe human rights violations in dealing with religious matters. History shows the results of such politics – Andijan events and blast in Khanabad. Total control over Islam is not possible. Therefore, the sate officials must not try to put pressure and gain total control over Muslims. It will surely result in creation of underground or so-called ‘parellel Islam’, like it happened during the Soviet Union, and/or distrust of the government and mass protests of Muslims. Kyrgyz state officials must closely collaborate with Muslim community and stop making one-sided zero-sum decisions.
Third, the Kyrgyz government has been pressuring Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) very much. Mufti of Kyrgyzstan Muratali aji Jumanov severely criticized HT in last years Eid ul Adha prayer in the center of Bishkek, which gathered several thousands of Muslims. Imams in central mosques have been doing the same thing during the Friday prayers for a long time. This has badly influenced HT members, whose numbers have increased during recent years. They believe that state-appointed mufti and imams have betrayed Islam and taken the side of jahil government. In case militants from Pakistan and Afghanistan intrude into southern Kyrgyzstan, there is a high possibility that HT will join them.
Finally, fourth, mass media and experts have recently been discussing that extremist militant groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan – Taliban and Islamic Movement of Turkestan – may have already crossed borders of Tajikistan, and are seeking local populations support. This must alert Kyrgyz officials, as we border with Tajikistan in southwest. And Kyrgyz borders in southwest are not well protected. Batkern events [ru] of 1999 are proof for it.
All these arguments given above may be concluded in one point – the Kyrgyz government must establish a communication bridge with Muslim community in southern Kyrgyzstan and come up with effective strategy in dealing with Islam. Otherwise, as Kadyr Malikov (he was my Master thesis supervisor by the way) believes, Kyrgyzstan may end up in the same situation like Pakistan.