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Central Asians Stand By 'Un-Islamic' New Year's Traditions

Father Frosts and Snow Maidens stand near a decorated tree in the Kyrgyz capital. (file photo)
Father Frosts and Snow Maidens stand near a decorated tree in the Kyrgyz capital. (file photo)
By Farangis Najibullah
Officials in Central Asia insist they will continue the practice of ushering in a Western-style New Year's with parties, decorated trees, and Father Frost despite scattered calls to discard those Soviet-era traditions.

Such adornments were unheard of among a majority of people in those predominantly Muslim states until Soviet rule introduced them, and for years they have been the target of critics who insist such nonnative rites have no place in Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek life.

For the most strident detractors, it appears to make little difference whether the date at issue is December 31-January 1, when the Gregorian calendar dictates, or the Julian equivalent that falls days later. They simply don't think those winter festivities belong in their culture.

In response to such a challenge, the mayor of Tajikistan's capital recently pledged to put up not one but two lavishly decorated fir trees in Dushanbe. He promised the festivities to mark New Year's would be far "grander" than in previous years.

"New Year's is marked in the official Tajik calendar with bold red letters and we will celebrate it appropriately," Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev said.

Party Poopers

The New Year's festivities in Dushanbe are expected to include concerts, fireworks, and food fairs. Father Frost and his sidekick Snow Maiden -- regular fixtures of Soviet-style New Year's celebrations -- will go door to door on New Year's Eve to offer sweets to children.

The mayor's office has declared that New Year's celebrations should not be attributed to any religion and that the date "has nothing to do with Jesus Christ's birthday."

The statements follow a call by the official newspaper of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party urging Dushanbe authorities not to erect the traditional New Year's tree. The tree went up anyway.

Dushanbe's New Year's tree is installed on December 24.
Dushanbe's New Year's tree is installed on December 24.
"Only 3 percent of Dushanbe residents are ethnic Russians, and the rest are all Muslims," wrote Muhibollo Qurbon, chief editor of the "Najot" publication. "So erecting New Year's trees and celebrating New Year's doesn't make any sense for Tajik Muslim youth."

Qurbon suggested the money allocated to such events should be spent on helping elderly Christians in Tajikistan.

Similarly, in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, lawmaker Tursunbai Bakir Uulu urged young people not to celebrate New Year's.

Blacklisted

In a meeting with Bishkek students last week, Bakir Uulu, a former ombudsman, said marking New Year's contradicts Islamic traditions.

The lawmaker has a list of "un-Islamic" festivities that he says should be canceled in predominantly Muslim Kyrgyzstan along with New Year's parties. They include Women's Day and International Workers' Day, marked on March 8 and May 1, respectively.

"This is not an Islamic celebration. Even Russians' or Christians' holy book, the Bible, doesn't mention New Year's celebrations," Bakir Uulu says. "It's been made up by people and has no religious significance. Perhaps some Muslims mark this event without understanding the meaning of it, [but] New Year's is not our holiday and it is wrong for us to celebrate it."

Kyrgyz Education Ministry spokeswoman Kerez Zhukeeva counters that meetings with university students should not be used for "religious propaganda."

Despite Bakir Uulu's call, New Year's preparations have been in full swing for weeks in Kyrgyzstan. New Year's trees are up in Bishkek and Osh, fireworks displays are planned for the big cities, and the presidential palace was going ahead with its traditional pre-New Year's gathering of overachieving students and other guests.

In Tashkent, meanwhile, officials rejected reports that Father Frost and Snow Maiden would be frozen out of Uzbek television channels' New Year programs.

The Culture Ministry said the reports -- claiming that state television channels had been given informal instructions not to show the traditional symbols of New Year's celebrations -- were baseless.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek services
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mamuka
December 28, 2012 00:23
Any objections to Nooruz? Unlike the other traditions, it predates Islam (most likely Zoroastrian and probably more ancient) and yet somehow survives.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 30, 2012 21:07
There is the reason for Muslim nation being peacefull,
Unlike the pseudo-revolutionaries, terrorists and fools
That serve the Imperial resurrectors of "pact of 1954",
Which Russia-Prussia of USSR instigated be forged,
On Brits and "Bechtel", and setting Halifat "heads-off".

It is perfectly legal from Theology-history known form.
True faith is based on God's Commandments and all
That blends naturaly with best inspirations and goals.
Muhamed was like a Christian of Georgia that came
From Media, being at Holly Mountain during Exodus.

He had accept laws and castoms of Saudy deserts,
Later Arabs converting conquered nations changed
Local customs according to their own old traditions.
Thought, Muslims might chose respect Arab ways.

They respect Arab ansestry among them but away
Of the "Chaldeans-prists-dervishes pseudo-Amirs"
That are supplimental of 1954 pact beachhead bay,
Forging supplimental head-cutting Halifat, use fear
To squash in between with Russia still free people.

by: Anonymous
December 29, 2012 12:55

"Only 3 percent of Dushanbe residents are ethnic Russians, and the rest are all Muslims," wrote Muhibollo Qurbon, chief editor of the "Najot" publication. "So erecting New Year's trees and celebrating New Year's doesn't make any sense for Tajik Muslim youth."
- what sense is the guy talking about? always interesting to note how religious some people in Muslim nations are. crime, poverty, violence against women, drug trafficking, nepotism, corruption at a large scale, etc.
yet, some new years trees?
really astonishing! these guys should care about more things than supposedly "un-islamic" rites. so, what?
Islam also has a history. didn't know that Iranian and turkic nations were Muslims before some Muslims conquered these nations.
have the feeling that there is not much tolerance unfortunately. what is "pure islam" according to these people?
anyway, "islamic" education in all these madaris will apparently soon pave the way for anything different to be rooted out.

some report mentioned that there are more mosques than schools in tajikistan. wonder why some religious charlatans are so interested in perpetuating their own power instead of promoting progress.

"New Year's contradicts Islamic traditions."
- so? do some people want to ban, eradicate, (eventually kill) everything and everyone that/who is supposedly a contradiction to certain Islamic traditions.

these guys should remember that even in Islam there are different traditions. Not everything is unambiguous.
just analyze some differences within the hanbaliya, shafiiya, hanafiya, malikiya and of course the djafariya, imamiya, etc.

even some books of hadiths are not accepted widely. so, criticism, tolerance and thirst for knowledge sometimes seem also important. (it'labu al-a'lm min al mahdi ila al-lahdi-roughly "search for knowledge!", Persian: "az gahware to gur danesh beju")
In Socrates' words " there is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance."

it's doubtful that some people talking about what is "islamic" in Islam really have read more than some surat. some ostentatiously pious "Muslims" unfortunately have not much knowledge about human history, religious context, psychology, interdependences and above all "salam" /peace.

"It's been made up by people and has no religious significance. Perhaps some Muslims mark this event without understanding the meaning of it, [but] New Year's is not our holiday and it is wrong for us to celebrate it."
"our holiday", "wrong to celebrate it"? - would be great to have some Muslim leaders to give at least some good, encouraging examples how to live a modest, decent and reasonable life that might inspire others to think how incredible (in terms of positive elements) Islam is. instead, mostly, apart from some truly inspiring exceptions, not few religious and non-religious figures just impress by threatening others, by banning things that are different, by stigmatizing people who think differently, by hating and killing, by lying, unfortunately.
wonder, whether this is supposed to be "Islamic"?

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