Kyrgyzstan: Threat of Islamisation?

The citizens of Kyrgyzstan, a nominally Muslim country, have an interesting history with Islam: While the nomadic Kyrgyz haven't really been introduced to the religion before the 18th century, Kyrgyzstani Uzbeks from the Ferghana Valley practice a more traditional form of Islam. During the Soviet era, religion was pushed to the sidelines of society, but Islam has seen some revival since Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991, again mostly in the southern rural parts of the country.

Hajj pilgrims heading to Mecca from Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan. By Flickr user teokaye.

Last week, Kyrgyzstani bloggers were worried about the threat of Islamisation in their country. The debate was the result of an interdepartmental commission's decision to allow Muslim women to wear hijabs for their passport photographs.

The decision of the commission was based on a claim that Islam prohibits women to uncover their heads and ears in front of unknown males. “We feel discomfort when we go through border control. The airport personnel demands us to take off our hijabs instead of introducing special rooms and having women personnel checking us”, Islamic representatives were quoted as saying.

However, most Kyrgyz bloggers are concerned about the decision and its implications.

Elena Skochilo (LJ user morrire), one of the most popular Kyrgyz bloggers, has quoted news, and said:

Упорной оказалась дочка Фронтбека, добилась своего…

The daughter of Frontbek seems pretty stubborn. She has achieved what she wanted…

By “daughter of Frontbek”, Elena refers to Jamal Frontbek Kyzy, who is the chairwoman of the Progressive Public Union of Women “Mutakallim”. This Islamic organisation has become one of the initiators of the “Hijab Process” and unites over 40,000 supporters.

Mirsulzhan, writing for neweurasia, added:

Такие организации, включая другие подобные структуры, как “Жанырык” финансируются арабским миром.

Such kind of organizations [Mutakallim – ed.] including other structures such as “Jangyryk”, a youth movement, are financed by the Arabic World.

Alan Kubatiev, another blogger and famous publicist from Kyrgyzstan (LJ user alan-kubatiev), also supports the opinion of Mirsulzhan about the Islamic community's fundraising resources.

Женщина по имени Фронтбек кызы, то есть дочь Фронтбека …, победила в долгой и изнурительной борьбе, где ее никто не поддерживал, кроме соратников и исламского сообщества. Зато последнее поддерживало очень неслабыми суммами.

Frontbek Kyzy has won a long and exhausting fight. She was not being supported by anyone but her closest aides and the Islamic community. But the latter had been supporting her with a sizeable chunk of money …

Mirsulzhan also noticed that Jamal Frontbek Kyzy and her organization had become very active recently. They were also against celebrating the Saint Valentine's Day in Kyrgyzstan, he says.

… Жамал Фронтбек кызы сказала, что некоторые мусульманки против празднования Дня Святого Валентина в Кыргызстане: < ...>

… Jamal Frontbek Kyzy said some Muslim women are against celebrating the Valentine's Day in Bishkek: – “I don't support Valentine's Day because 13-14-year old girls go to parties instead of bringing up children…”

“Mutakallim” has been also supporting the idea of some politicians to allow polygamy in Kyrgyzstan. Free Kyrgyzstan (LJ user free_kyrgyzstan) comments:

Интересно, если быть такими уж прямыми, то нельзя и по бабам ходить мусульманам. И перестать фотаться, Коран против изображений. Не хочется, что-то жить как в 19 веке…

Interestingly, if they're serious about this, they should also ask for forbidding men dating women and stop taking photos, as the Koran is against pictures. I would not like to live in the 19th century…

Alan Kubatiev believes that Islamization in Kyrgyzstan is a serious threat:

Исламизация Киргизстана принимает все более настойчивые и ригидные формы. Огромное большинство принявших – невежественны и в самом исламе, знают его лишь от не менее безграмотных мулл и проповедников, агрессивны и маргинальны.

Islamisation in Kyrgyzstan is attaining a more strong and rigid form. The most part of religious people are ignorant, they were taught Islam only from illiterate mullahs and the pulpit, they are aggressive and marginal.

Alan Kubatiev also added that the poor often turn to Islamic organisations in order to receive material support from their community.

Государство отдало эту часть населения безропотно и с готовностью. Плоды, которые оно пожнет лет через семь-восемь, его очень удивят.

The State has written off this part of the population. The results of this neglect will be tremendous after seven-eight years.

An anonymous commentator on Elena Skochilo's blog replied:

Это не “безобидное проявление себя в религии”. Это первый шаг на пути поголовной исламизации. Если так дальше пойдет в скором времени вас то же принудят носить платочек и принять ислам, причем вашего мнения и не спросят. У них слоган – вы с нами или против нас… Так что разрешение ношения хиджаба-платочка – это маленький шажок к горькому началу (или концу?).

This is not an “inoffensive display of one's religion”. This is the first step towards an all-out Islamisation. If this will proceed then very soon you will be forced to wear headscarves and accept Islam. Their slogan is “if you are not with us then you are against us”… So allowing to wear the hijab on passport photos could be the beginning of the end.

Edil Baisalov, a Kyrgyz politician (LJ user baisalov), says that every women has a right for choice – wearing hijab or miniskirt.

Время порабощения слабого пола закончилось. Кыргызская женщина свободна. Отказывать ей в равных правах с мужчинами – это варварство. Арабский мир отстает в развитии, потому что 50 процентов женского населения этих стран неграмотны. Не может государство <>. А в Кыргызстане есть люди, желающие подрезать крылья стране.

The time of the enslavement of the “weak” gender is over. Kyrgyz women are free. To refuse them their equal rights with men is barbarism. Arabic world is behind us, because there, 50 percent of women are illiterate. A state cannot “fly with one wing”. There are some people in Kyrgyzstan who would like to take one wing off their country.

Others within the Kyrgyz blogosphere also support the idea of allowing hijabs on passport photos. Almurad from Osh (Kyrgyzstan's southern capital, the more religious area of the country), comments on the post of Mirsulzhan at neweurasia.

Почему если девушка ходит в мини – это норма? А если девушка хочет обратное? Почему последнее не считается “Ведь, их действия являются лишь проявлением личной свободы…”, как в случае первой категории?

Why is it a “normal” thing if a girl wears a miniskirt? And what if a girl wants to wear a hijab? That is only their individual liberty, exactly as with the miniskirt!

Ataman Rakin, one of the most active commentators on neweurasia, does not think (RUS) that the Islamization of the country is a threat.

… pritshyom tut ‘ugroza'? A esli Islam dayot lyudi indetitshnost, dostoinstvo i sotsialnaya oborona protiv narkomania, massovoi alkogolism i nyneshnaya pornokratiya, eto ploxa shto li?

… Why is it a threat? If Islam gives people an identity, dignity and social defense against drugs, mass alcoholism and pornography – why is this bad?

Mirsulzhan of neweurasia replies:

Мне б сильно не хотелось видеть мою страну под игом авторитаризма, также как и под игом исламизма. Считаю наиболее рациональным в этом аспекте является западная демократия, либеральные ценности. Даже ислам не может защитить человечество от наркомании, алкоголизма и порнографии. Поскольку, эти факты имеют место также и в Иране, Арабских эмиратов и прочих стран. Зачем отнимать свободу, ведь несвободный человек будет творить вещи хуже, сто раз хуже…

I would neither like to see my country under authoritarianism nor under Islamism. I strongly believe the most rational choice we can make in this aspect is Western democracy, with its liberal values. Even Islam cannot defend humankind from drugs, alcoholism and pornography. Because these facts we can meet even in Iran, Arab Emirates and etc. Why do we need to steal someone's liberty? People without liberty can do worse things, hundred times worse things…


  • While I was translating this for Arabic Lingua, I was struck with a couple of seriously disturbing, to say the least, generalizations…

    “Arabic world is behind us, because there, 50 percent of women are illiterate.”

    Where exactly do you get that? literacy levels in countries like Syria, Lebanon, and the North Africa are all more than 90%, and in the levant especially it is close to 97%…

    Most of the Arab countries are much more high up in the Human Development Index…

    The Syrian parliament has 14% of it women, that’s higher than in the US.

    This kind of insensitivity and ignorance to other cultures is very very disturbing…

    My comment is not for you ofcourse, it is for the Kyrgyz “Politician”…

    Thanx for a very informative round up, I enjoyed reading and translating it.

  • Ataman Rakin, referenced in this post, commented on this over at neweurasia:

    He also criticises Edil Baisalov.

  • Where does Islamisation come from if Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him) acknowledged Jesus (Peace be Upon him)? I believe that the former new that the world has no single truth and he taught that. The latter new He had spoken truth and his wont be the last and he prophesised the coming of the former.

    After saying so, I see no need of forcing people to be one thing or see only one truth and neglect the rest, let people decide for their own destinies as long as they don’t infringe other people’s freedoms.

    Beliefs in only one truths has given birth to people like George Bush with his fake CRUSADE and Osama Bina Laden with his fake JIHAD.

    No people can be only Islam or Christian or Pagan. People are combination of every truth of this world. With that we become tollerant.

    Thanks and best.

  • […] Threat of Islamisation? 31 08 2007  I thank Ben who has edited this post and published at Global Voices Online and Neweurasia (Originally published at Global Voices and Neweurasia). It was nice to collect […]

  • […] Mirsulzhan Namazaliev is concerned about the Islamization of Kyrgyzstan The citizens of Kyrgyzstan, a nominally Muslim country, have an interesting history with Islam: […]

  • […] Mirsulzhan Namazaliev is concerned about the Islamization of Kyrgyzstan The citizens of Kyrgyzstan, a nominally Muslim country, have an interesting history with Islam: […]

  • Saltanat

    Kyrgyz women had never dressed hijab. Now, what is going on in the country is a shame for all women. We should not let it go through the country. Islam of this kind should be prohibited and the issue should be tackled at the Government level. it is a priority issue and cant wait. I vote for the free kyrgyz women. We are KYRGYZ, not arabic or whatever!!!

  • kk

    Hello Saltanat! I agree with what you said in your post. Be careful of the Arabs and their ways. Always keep your traditional culture, which is KYRGYZ!!!! I admire you as a beautiful Kyrgyz woman.

  • […] the government, but a government is made up of people, and the people are often equally polarized. Blogosphere responses to a 2007 decision by a government commission to allow women to wear hijab in passport photos often […]

  • […] the government, but a government is made up of people, and the people are often equally polarized. Blogosphere responses to a 2007 decision by a government commission to allow women to wear hijab in passport photos often […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.