Kyrgyz mosques under scrutiny for links to ‘extremism’:
In Kyrgyzstan, where 85 percent of the population is Muslim, many looked to mosques as a place for reconciliation after the summer violence left a bloody divide between the country’s ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Special prayer sessions were held in a number of mosques to bring together members of both communities and call for respect and mutual tolerance.
But mosques have also been viewed with suspicion, with some suggesting they’re a breeding ground for extremist groups who may have played a role in the June events and are intent upon further destabilizing the country.
Officials in Bishkek have blamed religious extremists for a recent spate of explosions and other attacks, including a massive bombing that disrupted court proceedings in November and a January 4 firefight that left four law enforcement officers and two alleged militants dead. Interior Minister Zarylbek Rysaliev said in a statement that “a war has been declared on all of us” and that “evil is wearing the mask of a believer.”
Marat Imankulov, the deputy chairman of the State Committee for National Security, says that the single greatest security threat facing Kyrgyzstan today is religious extremism promoted by organizations like Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose call for a global Islamic caliphate has deeply unnerved governments in Central Asia despite the group’s formal renunciation of violence.