27 september 2020

Central Asia news

Kazakh religious community Akhmadie under pressure applied by the authorities and coreligionists

15.06.2006 10:44 msk

Rinat Saidullin

Religious life


This is certainly the first time that so serious charges are pressed, officially or not, against Akhmadie, a religious community in Kazakhstan. Yerkin kaji Dunayev of the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems openly branded the Akhmadians as "a division of Al-Qaeda" and pronounced this particular school "illegitimate" by the decision of the Moslem World League. "The Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems will put even more effort into prevention of the activities of organizations of this kind," Dunayev was quoted as saying. Whenever so important a statement is made by the authorities, one naturally expects some corroborative arguments. In this case, however, no comments have been offered on either side.

A person may be thrown behind the bars in Kazakhstan even on the mere suspicion that he or she is involved with organizations on the black list of the National Security Committee. Several dozens of adepts of the recently outlawed Hizb-ut-Takhrir are already in jails. A year ago, two Kazakhs were sentenced to ten years imprisonment each for "treason against the state". Law enforcement agencies had suspected them of contacts with Al-Qaeda, and the court of the town of Taraz went ahead and jailed both defendants without much ado even though the case was clearly far-fetched. Members of non-traditional Islamic schools (Sufians, Akhmadians, and so on) were spared until recently because their activities did not really collide with the acting legislation. Still, management of Kazakhstan-1 TV Channel was fired not long ago on charges of promotion of the Sufi ideas in state TV programs, and the scandal once again put existence of Islamic sects and religious organizations into the focus of everyone's attention.

Several local Internet web sites have been posting materials on the so called "Sufi conspiracy" allegedly aiming to overthrow the secular regime and establish Islamic caliphate (this is essentially what Hizb-ut-Takhrir is being prosecuted for). Some of these materials imply that there is a direct connection between Sufians and Akhmadians. The latter are branded in these materials as "Sufi cashiers" because it is allegedly via them that money for the "Sufi turnover" is coming from abroad.

The Akhmadians themselves never responded to the innuendo. They should have, apparently, because they have encountered trouble in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan ever since their appearance in these countries. The Akhmadians number about 400 people in Kazakhstan nowadays. The first missionaries from Pakistan appeared in this country in the early 1990's. The community was founded and had its charter registered in 1994. Its full name is the National Akhmadian Moslem Jamagat of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Prominent writer Rollan Seisenbayev, ex-advisor to the president, became its first leader.

As a matter of fact, this religious school was put on the list of extremist organizations in Kyrgyzstan in 2004. It was later recognized to have been a mistake and the list was amended. The Kazakh authorities did not put Akhmadie on the list of outlawed organizations but the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems (it represents official Islam) released a fetvah ordering Moslems to stay clear of Akhmadie - just to be on the safe side. The list of undesirable organizations also included the Ismailites, Sufians, and even Bakhais for some reason (these latter have never aspired for the status of a sect of Islam).

The Akhmadians themselves believe that they know what the matter is. They are convinced that the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems is out to monopolize Islam on the territory of the country and therefore would not wince at applying political pressure at its adversaries. This assumption is corroborated by a mass campaign against independent mosques mostly located in southern Kazakhstan. They number 130, and over 90 mosques have already succumbed (of their own volition or under duress) to the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems and accepted its jurisdiction and patronage. Only the mosques of small but far-reaching international movements (the same Akhmadians, Sufians, or Ismailites) have withstood all pressure so far.

The community in question already found itself in the focus of attention of the financial police and National Security Committee once, in 2005. Law enforcement agencies decided that the Akhmadians had accumulated substantial funds and were transacting them abroad (to what ends was never explained by the authorities). The community did not deny the fact of transaction but claimed that these were the savings of one of the activists turned over to the community for safety considerations. The money was confiscated by law enforcement agencies and never heard of again. The main suspect in the episode with the illegitimate transaction, a citizen of Pakistan, left the country without trouble. Criminal charges against him were never pressed.

Murat Telibekov, journalist and the head of two public organizations - Union of Kazakh Moslems and Islamic Committee for Human Rights - ventures his own opinion. The Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems once appealed to the Akhmadie leaders for financial assistance in publication of some Islamic periodical or other. Lacking this sort of money, community leaders turned the request down. That was when trouble began. In fact, friction with the authorities only worsened when Telibekov made a story of the episode and had it published. The head of the Union of Kazakh Moslems that defends the Akhmadians, Telibekov himself wages regular court battles with the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems that demands his organization closed. Telibekov agrees with the Akhmadians: backed by the state, the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems went to war on its rivals.

Mr. Bukhari, the only foreign missionary in the community in question, is waging his own war to keep his missionary's license. He is convinced that the authorities are unable to come up with any legal grounds and that they are looking for a loophole that will enable them to extradite the foreign missionary from Kazakhstan. The matter has stuck at the level of bureaucratic correspondence for the time being. Dunayev's recent statement may provide the authorities with an additional stimulus to get rid of Bukhari and close the small religious community that makes them wary and suspicious.

Bukhari and Telibekov complain that the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems would not air its claims and grudges openly or meet with them to discuss whatever it thinks should be discussed. It prefers different methods altogether - lawsuits, black PR, and the so called "telephone right" or administrative resource.

Established by Mirza Gulam Ahmad Kadian in India in the 19th century, Akhmadie has over one million followers all over the world. Its major centers are located in Pakistan and Great Britain. The Akhmadians make an emphasis on absolute denouncement of violence and the gazavat (Islamic doctrine of holy war). They take pride in the fact that British PM Tony Blair sent a special cable to their latest annual convention in London where he "strongly approved of the community's positive attitude towards all true values of polycivilizational society."

The school's thoroughly non-violent nature notwithstanding, the Islamic world was not exactly happy over appearance of another sect. The Akhmadie school combines Islamic dogmas with elements of Krishnaism and Christianity. The Moslem umma is particularly upset by the fact that the Akhmadians regard the sect founder Mirza Gulam Ahmad Kadian as a prophet (orthodox Islamists claim that Allah did not send any other prophets after Muhammed). The Akhmadians are not on the lists of outlawed or extremist organizations, but attempts in Moslem countries to drive them out never cease.

Alsabekov, Deputy Senior Mufty of Kazakhstan, told Stolichnaya Zhizn, "I repeat it again and again: it is evil things that are mostly done wherever there is no control or blessing from the authorized religious leaders." It is impossible at this point to understand whose interests are focused on the small religious community in Kazakhstan: those of the state, secret services, or the Religious Directorate of Kazakh Moslems that is resolved to become the only and unquestionable leader of religious life in Kazakhstan.