The government in Kazakhstan looks set to intensify its war on what it dubs “non-traditional Islam” by drafting laws banning clothing and other attributes adopted by ultra-orthodox Muslims.
Almaty TV reported this week that a law that could be presented in parliament later this year envisions restrictions on wearing certain types of black clothes and trousers with ankle-length hems. Beards could also be targeted.
Quite how any of this will pass either legal muster or be enforced is anybody’s guess, but officials say they are examining international practice to see what lessons they can draw.
This initiative has been given momentum by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who remarked in April that clothing not in keeping with Kazakh traditions should be banned. And since it is Nazarbayev that is clamoring for the legislation, there is every reason to believe it will be adopted in some form, although the intended severity of the proposed rule is not yet known.
Indeed, while it is clearly inconceivable to understand how the government can ban black clothing as such, what is more likely is that particular attention will be paid to people perceived as overly religious, which again raises questions of constitutional propriety.
Confirming this point, the deputy minister for religious affairs, Berik Aryn, said that people pursuing a secular lifestyle will have nothing to fear.
“Citizens have a right to choose how they dress. New rules will only affect those who adhere to destructive tendencies. Some of our citizens are radicalized to such an extent that they are posing a challenge to modern society, but rejecting its culture and traditions,” Aryn said.
The state’s fight against radicalism is being waged by 300 specially tasked groups composed of theologians, teachers and government-backed civic activists. By having these groups hold meetings with people perceived to be straying into unsavory forms of Islamic belief, the government hopes it can spread understanding of orthodox forms of the religion.
What could go wrong?