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2007-07-15
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan to tighten laws on religious groups
Kyrgyzstan will tighten regulation and surveillance of religious groups in largely Muslim Central Asian nation, a government official said July 12, citing concerns about extremist groups.

More than 2100 religious organizations are currently registered with authorities, said Toigonbek Kalmatov, director of the State Agency for Religious Matters.

Another 400 are believed to be operating illegally in the country and are causing "great difficulties," Kalmatov said, naming a few including Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation movement and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a banned group that advocates the establishment of a worldwide Islamic state.

Kyrgyz laws required that all religious groups be officially registered and present an operating charter, Kalmatov told reporters. Authorities are obligated to monitor the groups to ensure they do not violate laws, and new legislative proposals would help tighten oversight, he said.

"These measures have become necessary in connection with the great number of religious movements operating in Kyrgyzstan, illegally and without registration," he said.

He gave no details regarding the new legislation.

The poor, largely rural ex-Soviet state has been buffeted by political turmoil for nearly two years now and there are growing fears of Islamic extremism, particularly in the poor, densely populated Fergana Valley.

Source: The Associated Press (AP)
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