By Adil James, MMNS
Farmington–May 7–10 visitors, comprising religious leaders, imams, educators, and government officials from Kyrgyzstan visited TMO last Wednesday as a part of a delegation sponsored by the State Departmentâ€™s International Visitorâ€™s Council (IVC).
The aim of the program as described by IVC was â€œto introduce religious leaders and government officials who have a supervisory role over religious affairs to secularism in the American context. Participants will learn how religion and the state interact and mechanisms that serve to protect religious rights in the U.S.â€
A team of representatives of TMO, comprising publisher Dr. Nakadar, columnists Masood Rab and Imam El-Amin, and other staff members, conversed for about an hour with the Kyrgyz imams, in a wide-ranging and open discussion of cultural issues of the two groups, from questions relating to the comfort level of American women in the workplace and whether TMO feels any pressure from the American government in its operations.
The Kyrgyz delegation provided a glimpse into the religious life of Kyrgyzstan, one of 5 Central Asian republics, described by the delegation as â€œthe most democratic of the Central Asian republics.â€ Kyrgyzstan is about 80% Muslim, with some Christian Orthodox people. Kyrgyzstan has a long border with China, and has ancestral and cultural ties with Turkey. The nation maintains close ties as well with all of its neighbors.
There appears to be no interference by the goverment in Kyrgyz religious affairs at all, according to the responses of the delegation to TMO questions. The religious institution of the country is that there is a body of approximately 20 high-level ulama, well-educated in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere. This body selects a national mufti, who selects regional Qazis, who each in turn select several regional imams, who in turn select the village imams who serve people directly. This institution is thus completely insulated from the national government.