In many areas of Kyrgyzstan, especially in the South, religion is playing a prominent role in the parliamentary election campaign. The involvement of Islamic and Christian spiritual leaders in politics is an unsettling development for authorities.
During the run-up to the February 27 election, state agencies responsible for religious affairs have tried to draw a clear line between religion and politics. For example, the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims in Kyrgyzstan recently issued a fatwa, or religious decree, calling on Islamic clergy and scholars to "avoid involvement in politics ... and prevent the politicization of Islam." The ban, however, is not being observed by a significant number of clerics, who are otherwise loyal to state-sanctioned religious institutions.
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Alisher Khamidov is a PhD candidate at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. Freelance writer Bakyt Ibraimov contributed reporting for this article.