Thursday, March 30, 2017

Kazakhstan: Govt backed sectarian extremism results in 4 Muslim men fined for saying "Amen" aloud during prayers


"I am an adherent of the Hanbali school and consider it necessary to pray the word 'Amen' aloud. But after imams halted the prayers because I prayed the word aloud I had to stop and say it to myself just to avoid conflict."

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: Forum 18 News
By Felix Corley | March 28, 2017

The state is prosecuting and fining Muslims for saying the word "Amen" aloud in mosques, after November 2016 Muslim Board behaviour regulations were imposed. Also, moves have begun in one region for the state-backed Muslim Board to seize mosque building ownership.

At least four Muslims in Zhanozen, in Kazakhstan's south-western Mangistau Region, were fined in February and March for saying "Amen" aloud at the end of their prayers in the city mosque. A regional religious affairs official who brought the cases, with the support of the state-appointed imam and the police, claimed the men thereby obstructed other people's prayers. All four men deny this allegation, and one has managed to overturn his fine on appeal.

In November 2016 the state-controlled Muslim Board – which adheres to Sunni Hanafi Islam only - banned saying the word "Amen" out loud in mosques. Human rights defenders in Kazakhstan, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of state reprisals, state that fines for saying "Amen" aloud in mosques are common in Mangistau Region and elsewhere in Kazakhstan.

A state religious affairs official in the neighbouring Atyrau Region confirmed to Forum 18 that "of course" such punishments have also been imposed in his Region. An official of Atyrau Specialised Administrative Court confirmed "many" such cases in 2016, but the Court refused to say exactly how many (see below).

"I am an adherent of the Hanbali school and consider it necessary to pray the word 'Amen' aloud," one of the Muslims affected told Forum 18 on 27 March, asking not to be identified. "But after imams halted the prayers because I prayed the word aloud I had to stop and say it to myself just to avoid conflict."

"Amen" ("Amin" in Kazakh, derived from Arabic) is used by Muslims asking God to accept a prayer. A lawyer in one case unsuccessfully argued that the ban on saying the word aloud "violates the constitutional rights of citizens who belong to the Shafi or Hanbali schools as, in those schools, saying the word 'Amen' aloud is permitted" (see below).

Moves have now begun in one region for the Muslim Board to take over the ownership of mosque buildings and property. In another region a prosecution official has proposed imposing controls on mosque donations (see below).

State-imposed Muslim Board monopoly

The state allows only one registered Muslim organisation in all of Kazakhstan: the Muslim Board. The Board is Hanafi Sunni and bans any other expressions of Islam. The state imposes an extra-legal ban on all non-Board controlled mosques, whether of other schools of Sunni Islam (such as Hanbali or Shafi), Shia, Ahmadi, or independent Sunni Hanafi mosques. All mosques must give the Board one third of their financial income, and accept imams appointed by the Board with no consultation.

This makes Muslim exercise of freedom of religion and belief even more restricted than the freedom of religion and belief of those who follow other beliefs.


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