Kazakh president mulls ban on beards, cropped trousers in move against religious extremism

Kazakh president mulls ban on beards, cropped trousers in move against religious extremism
By bne IntelliNews April 21, 2017

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev raised the issue of banning Islamic attire and beards associated with extremism at a meeting with Kazakhstan’s Spiritual Board of Muslims on April 19, the president’s press service reported.

A ban on the Salafi branch of Islam was proposed following events such as deadly attacks in June in the northwestern city of Aktobe, as well as a lone gunman attack in Almaty. Nazarbayev blamed the former on Salafism, an ultra-conservative movement within Sunni Islam, while the latter was revealed by investigations to have had Salafist motivations. Following the attacks, a number of allegedly planned terrorist attacks were thwarted by the National Security Committee (KNB).

Nazarbayev, like the leader of another Central Asian country, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, is now proposing a crackdown on Salafist clothing and grooming styles, which include a ban on trousers that fall below the ankle. 

"As a result of ignorance, our young people grow beards and crop their trousers. The number of Kazakh girls who completely cover themselves with black clothes is increasing. That does not correspond to our traditions or our people. It is necessary to work out the issue of banning that at the legislative level. Kazakh people [only] wear black clothes when they are in mourning,” the president said.

He emphasised the tradition of Hanafi teachings, the mainstream Islamic strand in Kazakhstan, instructing Imams to encourage young people away any radical teachings.  

“Everyone knows that Kazakhstan has a large territory and natural resources. There are those who look at all that with envy. First of all, they are those who wish us harm and try to cause disagreements in the society. One way to influence us from outside is introducing alien religious teachings for our people. This trend has been observed recently. We must fight against manifestations that are dangerous for our statehood. In this regard, you face big challenges,” the president told Kazakhstani imams.

“Only an educated imam can correctly instruct. He must have knowledge of his religion, he needs to study other religions’ characteristics, as well as have other knowledge. Imams must become ideologists with skills of oratorical art and knowledge in human psychology,” the Kazakh leader noted.

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