KYRGYZSTAN: 'Unlawful' Ban On Amplified Call To Prayer.

Igor Rotar, Keston News Service, 6 December 2001

The authorities in Kyrgyzstan's Jalal-abad region have banned the reading of the call to prayer via loudspeakers, the local Muslim leader told Keston News Service on 28 November. According to Dilmurat Haji Orozov, kazi (head of the spiritual administration of Muslims) in Jalal-abad region, workers at the kaziat telephoned the government's commission for religious affairs and established that the order from the regional authorities to stop reading the call to prayer via loudspeakers was unlawful. However, the regional authorities are still enforcing their ban, Orozov complained. The local religious affairs official told Keston in the town of Jalal-abad that the ban was imposed to protect the rights of non-Muslims, pointing out that people of all faiths had been woken up early in the morning by the amplified calls to prayer.

Jalal-abad region is in southern Kyrgyzstan, bordering Uzbekistan, and about one third of the population in the region is ethnic Uzbek. Speaking to Keston on 19 September in the town of Osh, Kathleen Samuel of the local office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that infringements of believers' rights in southern Kyrgyzstan occur most frequently in Jalal-abad region. Earlier this year the authorities removed from office an imam of Bozor-Kurgan district whom they did not like and appointed another imam in his place (see KNS 24 September 2001).

"We don't deny that we advised the kaziat to stop reading the call to prayer via loudspeakers," Ergesh Ormonov, head of the commission for religious affairs for Jalal-abad region, told Keston on 28 November. "Jalal-abad region is not inhabited solely by Muslims, and we must not forget the rights of representatives of other faiths. The first call to Islamic prayer is made early in the morning and wakes up not only Muslims, but also representatives of other faiths."

However, Abdumalik Sharipov, an expert on religious issues at the Jalal-abad human rights organisation Justice, believes that the ban on the use of loudspeakers is symptomatic of a new policy adopted by the authorities towards Muslims. "Since the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September, the authorities have been trying to assert their control over the activity of Islamic organisations," he told Keston in Jalal-abad on 28 November. "Repression of Muslims who refuse to follow the instructions of the secular authorities has increased. For example, members of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir party, which is banned in Kyrgyzstan, are now being given longer periods of imprisonment." (END)