After Friday prayers ended recently at Atyrau’s Old Mosque, a crowd of men, most of them younger than 30, poured onto the street. Many were wearing the distinctive shortened trousers and long beards with trimmed mustaches of Muslims who are striving to emulate the Prophet Muhammad. Down the street, a camera on a telephone pole recorded everyone who entered and left the mosque.
In western Kazakhstan’s oil country, intensifying government surveillance is engendering resentment among observant Muslims. Increasingly, they are trying to practice out of sight, which, naturally, just makes officials more suspicious.
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Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist.