Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Kyrgyz approve restrictive religion law

Kyrgyz approve restrictive religion law

Kyrgyzstan has shrugged off U.S. concerns and adopted an amended a law that will strengthen state control over religious groups, government media reported Tuesday.
The revised legislation will strongly curtail missionary activity in the impoverished, mostly Muslim Central Asian nation. It prohibits the dissemination of religious literature in public places and requires religious communities to register more than 200 adult members before they can operate legally.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed the legislation Monday, state newspaper Slovo Kyrgyzstana said, and it took effect immediately. His approval came days after several prominent U.S. lawmakers said the legislation would "severely restrict freedom of religion" and urged a veto.
Members of the U.S. Congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Representative Alcee Hastings of Florida and Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, sent Bakiyev a letter last week expressing concern that the law could seriously damage the country's adherence to democratic standards and its international standing.
The law bans private religious teaching at all levels of education _ outlawing private religious schools _ while providing for the inclusion of religious education in public schools, said lawmaker Zainidin Kurmanov, one its authors. He said the new rules are designed to streamline government control over religious organizations.
Kyrgyzstan's main denominations, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims and the Russian Orthodox Church, have backed the changes, which are seen as a government attempt to dispel concern about the influence of foreign evangelical Christians and fear of radical Islamic groups.
Advocacy groups say the measures will violate government pledges to protect human rights.
Provisions in this law "contradict not only Kyrgyzstan's constitution but also the country's international human rights commitments in the area of religion," said Felix Corley of the Norway-based Forum 18 religious rights organization.
He said the rule requiring 200 adherents of religious groups to register with local authorities, instead of the current 10, is a serious hurdle because followers might be afraid signing on could bring retribution from officials.
The U.S. State Department said in a recent report that Kyrgyzstan has generally respected religious freedom, but that the government has harassed and refused to register some Christian churches.
Kyrgyzstan hosts a U.S. air base important for operations in Afghanistan. It has long been considered the most democratic ex-Soviet republic in Central Asia, but has come under growing criticism for backtracking on political freedoms since Bakiyev came to power in 2005.