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Islamic Prayer Room Opened In Kyrgyz Parliament

BISHKEK -- An official Islamic prayer room has been opened in the Kyrgyz parliament after heated debate on the topic, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Parliament speaker Akhmatbek Keldibekov said at the opening ceremony on June 23 that the room, which was blessed by an imam at the official unveiling, will be used for daily prayer rituals and Friday Prayers will also be held there.

He said if people of other religions request the room it could be suited for their prayer services.

The idea to officially open a Muslim prayer room was first made in parliament by deputy Akylbek Zhaparov. It was received enthusiastically by some deputies and activists, but others were opposed to it as an intrusion of religion into state affairs.

The issue was fiercely debated in the Kyrgyz media.

Parliament deputy Tursunbai Bakir Uulu, a practicing Muslim, told RFE/RL that the room can accommodate about 80 people. It had been used unofficially for prayers before the opening ceremony on June 23.

Some 24 parliament deputies are said to have attended the Friday Prayers held in the room along with many parliament staffers and other workers.

Parliament officials said the room could also be made available for use by nongovernmental organizations.