ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN KYRGYZSTAN

      

General Information

The Kyrgyz Republic

National name: Kyrgyz Respublikasy

Total area: 73,861 sq mi (191,300 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 5,356,869

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Bishkek (formerly Frunze), 824,900

Other large city: Osh 225,600

Monetary unit: Som

Languages: Kyrgyz, Russian (both official)

Ethnicity/race: Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek 13.8%, Russian 12.5%, Dungan 1.1%, Ukrainian 1%, Uygur 1%, other 5.7% (1999)

Religions: Islam 75%; Russian Orthodox 20%; other 5%

National Holiday: Independence Day, August 31

Literacy rate: 98.7% (1999 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $10.5 billion; per capita $2,000. Real growth rate: 8.2%. Inflation: 10.2%.

Kyrgyzstan (formerly Kirghizia) is a rugged country with the Tien Shan mountain range covering approximately 95% of the whole territory. The mountaintops are perennially covered with snow and glaciers. Kyrgyzstan borders Kazakhstan on the north and northwest, Uzbekistan in the southwest, Tajikistan in the south, and China in the southeast. The republic is the same size in area as the state of Nebraska.

The native Kyrgyz are a Turkic people who in ancient times first settled in the Tien Shan mountains. They were traditionally pastoral nomads. There was extensive Russian colonization in the 1900s and Russian settlers were given much of the best agricultural land. This led to an unsuccessful and disastrous revolt by the Kyrgyz people in 1916. Kyrgyzstan became part of the Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in 1924 and was made an autonomous republic in 1926. It became a constituent republic of the USSR in 1936. The Soviets forced the Kyrgyz to abandon their nomadic culture and brought modern farming and industrial production techniques into their society.

Kyrgyzstan proclaimed its independence from the Soviet Union on Aug. 31, 1991. On Dec. 21, 1991, Kyrgyzstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Islamic History and Muslims

The vast majority of today's Kyrgyz are Muslims of the Sunni branch, which came into the region during the 8th century. Some Kyrgyz Muslims practice their religion in a specific way influenced by tribal customs. The practice of Islam also differs in the northern and southern regions of the country, with the south being more practicing. Kyrgyzstan remained a secular state after the fall of communism, which had only superficial influence on religious practice when Kyrgyzstan was a Soviet republic, because of the policy of state atheism. Most of the Russian population of Kyrgyzstan is atheist or Russian Orthodox. The Uzbeks, who make up 12.9 percent of the population, are generally Sunni Muslims.

Islam was introduced to the Kyrgyz tribes between the eight and twelfth centuries. The most intense exposure to Islam occurred in the seventeenth century, when the Jungars drove the Kyrgyz of the Tian Shan region into the Fergana Valley, whose population was totally Islamic. However, as the danger from the Jungars subsided, elements of the Kyrgyz population returned to some of their tribal customs. When the Quqon Khanate advanced into northern Kyrgyzistan in the eighteenth century, various northern Kyrgyz tribes remained aloof from the official Islamic practices of that regime. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the entire Kyrgyz population, including the tribes in the north, had converted to Sunni Islam.

Alongside Islam, some Kyrgyz practice Tengriism, the recognition of spiritual kinship with a particular type of animal. Under this belief system, which predates their contact with Islam, Kyrgyz tribes adopted reindeer, camels, snakes, owls, and bears as objects of worship. The sun, moon, and stars also play an important religious role. The strong dependence of the nomads on the forces of nature reinforced such connections and fostered belief in shamanism. Traces of such beliefs remain in the religious practice of many of today's Kyrgyz residing in the north.

Knowledge of and interest in Islam is said to be much stronger in the south, especially around Osh, than further north. Religious practice in the north is more mixed with animism and shamanist practices, giving worship there a resemblance to Siberian religious practice.

Muslim cemetery in Kosh Köl, Issyk Kul ProvinceWhile Religion has not played an especially significant role in the politics of Kyrgyzstan, more traditional elements of Islamic values have been urged despite the nation's constitution stipulating to secularism. Although the constitution forbids the intrusion of any ideology or religion in the conduct of state business, a growing amount of public figures have expressed support to promote Islamic traditions. As in other parts of Central Asia, non-Central Asians have been concerned about the potential of a fundamentalist Islamic revolution that would emulate Iran and Afghanistan by bringing Islam directly into the making of state policy, to the detriment of the non-Islamic population. Because of sensitivity about the economic consequences of a continued outflow of Russians (brain drain), then president Askar Akayev took particular pains to reassure the non-Kyrgyz that no Islamic revolution was threatening. Akayev paid public visits to Bishkek's main Russian Orthodox church and directed one million rubles from the state treasury toward that faith's church-building fund. He also appropriated funds and other support for a German cultural center. Nevertheless, there has been support from local government, to build bigger Mosques and religious schools. Additionally, recent bills have been proposed to outlaw abortion. Also, there has been numerous attempts to decriminalize polygamy, and to allow officials to travel to Mecca on a hajj under a tax-free agreement.

A new village mosque in Milyanfan, Chui ProvinceDuring a July 2007 interview, Bermet Akayeva, the daughter of former president Askar Akayev, stated that Islam is increasingly taking root in Kyrgyzstan. She emphasized that many mosques have been built and that the Kyrgyz are increasingly devoting themselves to the religion, which she noted was "not a bad thing in itself. It keeps our society more moral, cleaner."

The state recognizes two Muslim feast days as official holidays: Eid ul-Fitr (Öröz Ayt), which ends Ramadan, and Eid ul-Adha (Kurban Ayt), which commemorates Ibrahim's (Abraham's) willingness to sacrifice his son. It also recognizes Orthodox Christmas as well as the traditional Persian festival of Nowruz.

 

A new village mosque in Milyanfan, Chui Province

         Dungan Mosque, Karakol

 

Mosque at Naryn, Kyrgyzstan

Pervomayskoe-mosque

 

Islam in Kyrgyzstan

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Central Mosque, Bishkek, Chuy
Phone: 0312-283950

Al-Waqf Al-Islami, Bishkek, Chuy
Phone: 312-299631

MADRASA ATANAZAR-KORI, Eski-Nookat, Osh
Phone: 0996-3230---21582

KAZIYAT OSH, Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Phone: 24733

MASJID ABU-KHANIFA, Eski-Nookat, KYRGYZSTAN
Phone: 00996-3230--21582
 

Sirajiddinjami masjid, Yangi-Naukat, Religo origaniz
Phone: 996-3230 33330

Masjit (Alamedin market ), Bishkek

Sultan Suhuk Mosque, Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur

  Masjit (Alamedin market ), Bishkek
  Sirajiddinjami masjid, Yangi-Naukat
  Sultan Suhuk Mosque, Kashgar

  Al-Farooq School, Arasan

   Muslim Owned Business 

Ades Design, Bishkek

References
Islam in Kyrgyzstan ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Kyrgyzstan  , September, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107698.html ,  September, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=kyrgyzstan   , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Kyrgyzstan, September 2008.