Islam

On October 25, the year-long process of reregistration of religious groups in Kazakhstan came to an end. In the fall of 2011, after a number of startling terrorist attacks rocked Kazakhstan’s carefully cultivated image of stability, the government passed a new law requiring all religious organizations in the country to submit new applications for official registration. Without registration, the activities of the groups would be illegal. Both “traditional” religions, like Russian Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam, and “minority” religions underwent the procedure, which included complex and ambiguous new membership requirements and “expert” vetting of religious texts. Under the new rules, the number of religious organizations in the country has dropped by over 30 percent, from 4,551 to 3,088. The number of confessions with at least one registered organization dropped even more dramatically, from 42 to 17.

More than three decades ago, Indonesia was widely regarded as a wellspring of moderate Islam. The leading U.S. magazine Newsweek described the country as the home of “the smiling Islam,” insisting that the Indonesian version of the faith was more friendly and tolerant than that found in the Middle East. But history has moved Indonesia into a new religio-political situation.

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