Sunday, October 02, 2011

Kazakhstan Parliament Passes New Restrictive Religion Law

AP and On Islam both report on the passage Thursday by Kazakhstan's Senate of a new more restrictive law on religious activities. The bill must now be signed by President Nazarbayev, but that seems to be a certainty.  The law, which has been criticized by OSCE and others (see prior posting), sets 50, 500 and 5000 members respectively for local, regional and national registration of a religious group. It requires government review of all religious literature and annual registration of foreign missionaries (who can be expelled if they pose a threat to public order). The law also bans prayer rooms in all public buildings. Backers of the bill see it as a way to combat Islamic extremism, but others say it will eliminate two-thirds of the 4500 religious groups that now operate in the country. It will also complicate operations for fairly large Protestant groups now established in Kazakstan.