Kazakhstan confronts the intersection of religious belief and extremism

The government of Kazakhstan is weighing limits on religious activities and organizations in a bid to halt fears over a rise in extremism.

Last year, the former Soviet republic announced work on a bill to introduce amendments to a number of laws relating to religion (BNews).

The announcement followed concerns over an attack by a gunman who killed three policemen and a member of the public. President Nursultan Nazarbayev described the shootings in Almaty as a terrorist act. He said the suspect Ruslan Kulikbayev, 26, who was detained after the attack, may have been an Islamist militant.

The proposed new measures would tighten conditions for religious and civil liberties already criticized as subpar by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Kazakhstan is home to 3,700 registered religious entities representing 18 faiths.

The proposed legislation would ban discussion of faith in schools and the media, restrict missionary activity and place limits on religious education. The bill’s authors plan to prohibit children under the age of 16 from attending religious services unless accompanied by at least one parent – and then, only with the written consent of the other.

The proposal would also bar children from excursions to religious sites and monuments, pilgrimages and vacations at camps organized by religious communities.

The responsibility for compliance  is to be laid upon religious organizations.

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