Almaty’s year as the capital of Islamic culture began on Feb. 24 with an international conference, the Almaty mayor’s office said on its official website.
Opening the conference, Akim (Mayor) Akhmetzhan Yessimov stressed the significance of the event and read out a congratulatory telegramme on behalf of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
“It is symbolic that Almaty has been named the capital of Islamic culture for 2015, the same year Kazakhstan is celebrating its 20th year of membership in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. All these years, Kazakhstan has been an active advocate for strengthening relations with Muslim countries and building a platform of common interests,” the telegramme read.
“It is obvious that the active revival and development of traditional humanitarian ties among our countries in the fields of culture, science and education provides a solid foundation for successful long-term cooperation,” Nazarbayev wrote.The Capital of Islamic Culture initiative aim to maximise cultural exchange, further the development of humanitarian relations and deepen cooperation among OIC member-states.”
“The honorary title of Capital of Islamic Culture emphasises historical continuity and gives new momentum and life to Islamic spiritual life in Almaty,” the telegramme stated.
During the conference, participants discussed international integration efforts and their challenges, historical and cultural analysis of the Islamic World today and opportunities for multilateral cultural cooperation.
The ministers of culture from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states, representatives of the Directorate General of ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), international organisations and members of the clergy attended the event.
”We expect that by the end of the conference, a dialogue between different nationalities will have taken place. We want people to know more about Islamic culture. Our organisation demonstrates a true image of Islam and Islamic culture to all ISESCO member states,”ISESCO Director General Alibaba Babayev said.
Kazakhstan successfully chaired in the OIC council of foreign ministers in 2011-2012. Despite facing complicated geopolitical conditions and political transformations, particularly in the Middle East, Kazakhstan, as chairman, helped solve pressing international issues. Astana made every effort to contribute to Palestine’s efforts to acquire UN membership and also organised the effort to gather $500 million in humanitarian donations for Somalia through an OIC campaign. Kazakhstan offered some new ideas for OIC efforts, including the creation of an OIC Islamic Organisation of Food Security. During Kazakhstan’s chairmanship, the organisation was renamed from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, reflecting its intentions to push its positions on various global policy efforts.
It was no accident then that Almaty was chosen to serve as the centre of Islamic culture for 2015. This opinion is also shared by Vice-Minister of Culture and Sport Galym Akhmediarov, who underlined that the event also coincided with the celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Kazakh Khanate.
“Kazakhstan is respected abroad; our country is a known platform of interfaith unity and harmony. Islam and culture are inseparable and religion is an integral part of any secular society. The state pays attention to relations between different religions. It is no accident that Almaty was chosen as this year’s Islamic culture capital. The city has more than 300 cultural institutions and 115 cultural monuments,” he added.
Famous Kazakhstan poet and public figure Olzhas Suleimenov stated: “Many politicians have started talking about the fact that this will be a time of clashes between Eastern and Western civilisations, namely between the Islamic and Christian worlds. When Kazakhstan made a proposal to declare the year of rapprochement of cultures and peoples, UNESCO gave its support and such a year took place in 2010. When 2010 passed, we made a proposal to extend it. Then the question to extend it for a decade was raised. The new generation should know why these cultures sometimes suffer from a lack of harmony with each other. When we learn why exactly, we will be able to fix the problem.”
Abdulaziz Othman Attvaydzhri, Director General of ISESCO also emphasised that “in honouring Almaty as the capital of Islamic culture, ISESCO is very proud to present this beautiful historic city, located in the high mountains of the Trans-Ili Alatau. All year, the city will host many activities that are designed to increase cultural tourism. I appreciate the organisers’ efforts, I want to thank everyone for their participation in the conference and wish you success and fruitful work.”
The actual ceremonial presentation of the keys to the new capital of Islamic culture took place in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, in January.