Saturday, August 18, 2018

Neither Kyrgyz State nor Kyrgyz MSD Controls Increasingly Active ‘Underground’ Medrassahs

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 18 – There are now more than 100 underground Islamic educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, including five in Bishkek alone. Few of them are controlled either by the government or by the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Kyrgyzstan. And many promote radical Islamist and even terrorist ideas.

            Daniyar Muradilov, a local expert and theologian, says that “the danger of creating and increasing the number of such ‘underground’ religious organizations in the Kyrgyz Republic is quite great” and rapidly becoming a threat to the existing social and political system there (

            “If some kind of radical organization appears and builds a medrassah,” he says, “the muftiate will not be able to influence the situation in a serious way. Of course, at the moment, there is no mass opening of such schools. But the possibility of their appearance exists.” And the republic MSD doesn’t control them or the mosques “de facto.”

            “In order to change the situation,” Muradilov continues, “the muftiate must ensure that religious institutions from the moment of identifying plots and planned construction reach agreement with the MSD of Kyrgyzstan.” Instead, at present, the MSD gets involved only at the time of the celebratory opening of these institutions.”

            In the meantime, however, these mosques and medrassahs are operated by banned groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, and by the time the MSD pays any attention, the situation is beyond the control of either the muftiate or the state. As a result, the MSD “does not have any levers of influence on these organizations.” 

            The situation is bad throughout the country but especially in Chuisk and Osh oblasts, the theologian says; and ever more often money for the medrassahs and mosques is coming from Arab countries which gives rise to “the threat of introduction in the umma of followers of non-traditional Islamic trends.”

             Kyrgyzstan law enforcement personnel speak openly about this, but they suggest that without the help of the MSD, they are limited in what they can do in identifying problem cases and then taking action. And that creates yet another security problem in the country, one that appears to be on the way to getting beyond the reach of state or muftiate.

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