A few miles east of downtown Bishkek, where the asphalt road dissolves into pitted dirt lanes amid Soviet-era apartment blocks, a newly renovated mosque gleams in the night. Inside, sitting on the floor under three bare fluorescent bulbs, a young man speaks in Kyrgyz to a group of 12 men.
“We must remember God in all our actions,” he says, imploring Muslims to join him for a house-to-house mission. “We must make God the center of our lives and set aside human things.”
This scene, repeated across the country thousands of times a year, is the product of a controversial Muslim revivalist movement that in the last decade has established strong roots in Kyrgyzstan. Founded in 1926 to revive faith among Muslim communities in India, Tablighi Jamaat -- “the Proselytizing Society” -- spread into Central Asia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The group is banned in Russia and all Central Asian countries, except for Kyrgyzstan.
To read the full story
Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist.