New Ministry to Oversee Domestic Faith Policies, Support NGO Development

ASTANA – The new Ministry of Religious Affairs and Civil Society will oversee the government’s policies on religion, including ensuring religious freedom and facilitating interaction between the government and religious associations, officials announced Oct. 14 at the ministry’s first press conference. The ministry will also oversee youth policy and interactions between the government and civil society.

Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev, Chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs Galym Shoikin, Chairman of the Committee for Civil Society Affairs Kuanysh Assylov and Director of the Department of Youth Policy Gabidulla Ospankulov made the announcements at the Central Communications Service. The ministry will improve efforts to combat extremism, terrorism and the use of religion for destructive purposes and will better explain the role of the law “On religious activity and religious associations, Yermekbayev and Shoikin said.

“We consider that for Kazakhstan, Salafism is an unacceptable and destructive religious movement. In general, Kazakhstan’s society has a negative attitude to this alien understanding of faith, leading to radicalism,” Yermekbayev said. The comments followed earlier statement from President Nursultan Nazarbayev that followers of Salafism, a radical strain of Islam, were responsible for the June 5 bloody terrorist attack in Aktobe which shook the nation.

“I would like to note that already 23 terrorist and extremist organisations have been banned in Kazakhstan,” he added.

Yermekbayev said the number of Salafism followers is decreasing and they do not have organised structures in Kazakhstan.

“Our future work will focus on preventing the spread of literature and the work of the websites promoting the ideology of Salafism,” Yermekbayev said.

Assylov announced that the ministry’s priorities would also include improving the regulatory framework for the development of civil society institutions and facilitating the transfer of public services to NGOs.

According to Ospankulov, the ministry will also seek to incorporate young people into socio-economic and political processes. It will also work to support and strengthen the Youth Policy Council under the President and seek the inclusion there of the first heads of state bodies. The ministry will also hold a national youth forum dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Independence of Kazakhstan.

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