Kazakh Parliament Passes Controversial New Religion Law

Posted September 21st, 2011 at 9:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Kazakhstan's parliament has voted in favor of a controversial law to limit foreign religious missionaries operating in the country.

The lower house passed the bill Wednesday. The Senate is expected to approve it and President Nursultan Nazarbayev plans to sign it.

The new law would require missionaries to register once a year with the government agency overseeing religious activity. It also says missionaries who threaten the “constitutional order” and “public peace” will be expelled. The measure also would ban prayer rooms in all state institutions.

Human rights groups are criticizing the new law, saying it will limit religious freedom, especially for Christians. Seventy percent of Kazakhstan's population is Muslim.

Supporters join Mr. Nazarbayev in calling the law an important step in meeting a growth of radical Islam in an impoverished region of Kazakhstan that is bordered by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan — all of which have radical Islamic groups.