In Kyrgyzstan, social de-secularization is taking place rapidly while the influence of Islam religion is growing. The extent of Islamic influence on the political life of the state is becoming increasingly apparent each year. As the recent high-profile scandal between former Grand Mufti Chubak Ajy Jalilov and the Deputy of the Parliament Janar Akaev has shown, a core of moderately Islamic political opposition has been already formed in Kyrgyzstan – and that opposition is capable of challenging the existing secular system.
So far this core has not named itself as a political movement, nor does it have its own structure and local entities as a public and political organization. However, with its ideological orientation and religious affiliation it has garnered wide support among moderate Muslims, which has caused concern in the government. The informal leader of the Islamic jamaat (assembly), Chubak Ajy Jalilov, is a brilliant speaker and intellectual of Islamic science. Thanks to his charismatic personality, Jalilov enjoys a high profile within the Muslim community not only in Kyrgyzstan but also abroad.
Jalilov versus Parliamentary Deputies
Recently, the government experienced its first clash with Chubak Ajy Jalilov. Earlier this month, a Parliamentary committee was considering a draft bill making amendments to the Labor Code of the Kyrgyz Republic. Specifically, the bill aimed to extend lunch breaks on Fridays — up to two hours — to better allow Muslims to perform Friday prayers. Among the lobbyists for this proposed legislation were the country’s Islamic leaders, including Jalilov. On June 6, the relevant Parliament committee declined to pass the draft; naturally, the Islamic leaders who had lobbied for the bill were dissatisfied.
The next day, on June 7, Jalilov responded by posting on his Facebook page. In his video message, the ex-mufti fiercely criticized a parliamentarian, Janar Akaev, who opposed the adoption of this law. In addition, Jalilov claimed that he would not greet or sit at the same table with those deputies who did not support the bill. In the video, he announced the home addresses of the six deputies who had opposed the law, and urged his supporters not to vote for them or support them in the future.
Going even further, Jalilov said that, should any of the deputies pass away, he would not take part in the funeral processes according to Islamic practice, including a public refusal to read Salat al-Janazah (the funeral prayer) for them. “If I were a Grand Mufti of Kyrgyzstan, then I would give an order to all imams in the mosques not to recite Salat al-Janazah during the funeral of the opponents of this law,” Jalilov said.
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Uran Botobekov has a PhD in political science and is an expert on political Islam.