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Kazakhstan's Draft Law On Religion Sparks Debate

Islam, one of the "traditional religions" of Kazakhstan, would be protected, says the country's grand mufti.
A Kazakh draft law passed by parliament that tightens control over so-called "nontraditional religious activities" is causing heated debate in Kazakhstan.

Yevgeny Zhovtis, chief of the NGO Kazakh Bureau on Human Rights, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service today that if President Nursultan Nazarbaev signs the legislation, the country will return to an era of totalitarian control.

Leaders of Kazakhstan's Baptists, Hare Krishnas, and Catholics have also expressed their concern over the bill.

Meanwhile, Nurzhan Makhanov, an official representative of Kazakh Grand Mufti Abusattar Derbisaliev, told RFE/RL that the draft law is "professional" and would protect "the traditional religions of the country" -- Russian Orthodox and Islam.

Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have expressed their unhappiness with the draft law.

Kazakhstan is scheduled to chair the OSCE in 2010.

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