Kazakhstan concerned over radical movements influencing children
In Kazakhstan, calls for more attention on the influence of extremist religious movements on youth are becoming louder.
Askar, the 15-year-old son of Zauresh Kazymova from suburban Almaty, began coming home late after school and locking himself in his bedroom.
“At first, I thought maybe it was heartbreak or some other teenage problem, but then I looked at these books he brought home and hid under his bed,” Kazymova said. “I was dumbstruck.”
That evening, Kazymova had a serious talk with her son.
“I told him that I looked at his books and I knew that it was an illegal organisation – Hizb ut-Tahrir – and I would tear the head off of anyone who messes with my son like this,” Kazymova said. “At first, he protested, but I explained everything to him and then took him to a few sessions with a psychologist.”
It turned out that one of Askar’s classmates gave him the literature.
“I talked with his teacher and the headmaster about this subject. We don’t know how many children were harmed by this,” Kazymova said. “Thankfully, they understood and resolved the problem. … It would be nice if schools started taking this issue more seriously. We need to monitor it.”
At a teachers’ conference in August, Atyrau Oblast Akim Bergei Ryskaliyev made a similar proposal, saying schools need “to make lists of students with radical views.”
The frequency of religious extremism among young people is growing and closer monitoring is necessary, Ryskaliyev said.
“Our youth are vulnerable to informal religious movements, and they take their cues from instigators of ethnic and religious discord,” he continued. “This is a problem not only for our oblast but for the whole country. … School headmasters need to put this situation in order.”
“This is a good initiative,” 2nd Lt. Kairat Ikembayev of the Interior Ministry’s Directorate of Operations said. “Kazakhstan believes extremism as such is not common. But we must remember that certain elements from neighbouring countries are infiltrating us and we must eliminate their influence.”
The security services, law enforcement agencies and local governments currently handle religious extremism, “but often such problems are taking root in schools, and therefore such initiatives should be welcomed,” Ikembayev said.
Ryskaliyev has instructed the Education Department to study the region’s religious situation and develop a programme to improve it.
Many schools already have such monitoring, Curriculum Director Amina Vasifova of Shymkent said. “Teachers, psychologists and parents must work on the children together. It is especially difficult with teenage boys: it is easy to drive whatever you want into their heads.”
To prevent this, schools are trying to engage children in sports, arts and crafts, Vasifova said.
In late September, MP Askhat Bekenov called for monitoring the influence of religious institutions on children. Bekenov made the same appeal to law enforcement agencies. “As of late, we are observing an increase in the number of Wahhabis. This is very worrying for us. … In order to protect our children from the negative consequences, we have to take all possible measures,” said Bekenov.
The problem is especially pronounced in western Kazakhstan, he said.
“(T)he growth in Islam’s popularity in Kazakhstan is clear, and this is normal,” Kazakhstan Academy of Sciences fellow Dimash Saurayev said. “So far, Islam, Christianity and other faiths have existed side by side quite peacefully in Kazakhstan. In order to preserve this peace, we must confront extremist movements.”
Extremists are targeting teenagers because “they do not yet have fully formed ideals and they are easier to manage,” Saurayev said. “Therefore, we need social programmes to repel such influence.”
A number of oblasts are working on such programmes and a number of schools have introduced religion into the curriculum, Education Ministry spokeswoman Minaya Gasanova said.
Security and law enforcement agencies “are following various extremist developments in the neighbouring countries and are resisting their infiltration into Kazakhstan,” an anonymous source at the State National Security Committee said. “We are taking all operational and preventative measures to ensure our national security. However, the help of education staff would, in this case, be essential.”
“I hope that such programmes are introduced throughout the country so that no more of our children suffer like my son,” Kazymova said. “I always think, ‘What if I hadn’t noticed? What would have happened with my son?’ We need to completely eradicate this social disease with our collective strength.”
Source: Yelena Sorokina Centralasiaonline.com
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