While the December 16 parliamentary elections were designed to promote political stability for Kyrgyzstan, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's administration still faces broad social challenges. Perhaps none is greater than the question of religion's relationship to the state.
Tension between devout Muslims and the government is high during the latter half of December, as thousands of Kyrgyz are making the Hajj, or the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca. The government is tightly regulating the process action that many local political analysts say is motivated by the government's concern over the rise of radical Islamic sentiment in the country. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Existing policies, however, are causing friction with mainstream believers.
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Alisher Khamidov is a doctoral candidate at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.