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Kazakh President Signs Restrictive Law On Religion


Some 70 percent of Kazakh citizens are Muslim.

Some 70 percent of Kazakh citizens are Muslim.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has signed into law legislation that tightens control over religious groups in what officials suggest is a bid to counter Islamic extremism, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and other media report.

Nazarbaev had earlier proposed the bill to parliament, which gave it overwhelming backing. His office said in a statement that the law reflects "current realities and trends."

The law requires existing religious groups to dissolve and re-register through a procedure that is likely to leave many smaller groups out in the cold.

The construction of religious sites will require approval by local authorities, and the religious education of youth will also be under their control.

In addition, the new law imposes a ban on praying in the workplace.

The legislation has been criticized by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which said it "unnecessarily restricts the freedom of religion."

Kazakh authorities have repeatedly expressed concern about the spreading of Muslim extremism.

Some 70 percent of Kazakhstan's 16.5 million people are Muslims.

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports
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