The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev, has said that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the Islamic State group and Islamic terrorism have nothing to do with that religion.
Speaking at his annual meeting with reporters at the Astana-based presidential residence on December 21, the Akorda, Nazarbaev said that the problem of "extremism and terrorism" had become particularly acute at the end of last century and the beginning of the twenty-first century.
"However, there is no reason to link [extremism and terrorism] with Islam," Nazarbaev added.
The Kazakh president pointed to the fact that the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq has militants from many nationalities, and said that "Islamic terrorism" has no religious or national origins.
"For example, Europeans, including British and French are now going to the [Islamic State group]. There are citizens from Central Asia, Turkey, other states. These are people who are united by some sort of principles, who work for money. I don't support the position that terrorism is linked to Islam," Nazarbaev said in response to a question from Kazakhstan's Channel 31.
Nazarbaev quoted from the Koran to illustrate his point.
"The Koran says that the murder of a single person is the same as killing all of humanity. Therefore we should consider terrorism as a phenomenon that is hostile to humanity," the Kazakh president said.
Attracted By More Than Ideology
The Kazakh president's admitted that individuals were not only attracted to extremist groups like Islamic State because of their ideology.
"Unfortunately, there are more and more ways of engaging with extremist groups. For example, they provide financial assistance to the unemployed, the poor, and the sick and then they take them away," Nazarbaev said.
In what is likely to have been a reference to reports that Kazakh women and children have gone to Syria together with their husbands who had joined Islamic State, Nazarbaev said that extremist organizations were "sending their families and not allowing their wives and children to return."
Those reports stemmed from a video that was released by Islamic State in November 2013, which showed a group of around 150 Kazakh militants who said they had come to Syria with their wives and children. That video is also the likely source of recent comments by Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) Chairman Nurtai Abykaev, who said that there are about 300 Kazakh nationals fighting with IS, of which 150 were women.
Nazarbaev's comments also likely refer to the recent concerns and outrage of the Kazakh government at the release in November this year of an Islamic State video that showed Kazakh citizens including children participating in ideological and military training in Syria. The video, "Race Toward Good," has been banned in Kazakhstan.
On December 19, Kazakhstan's Deputy Prosecutor-General Andrey Kravchenko said that the country's law-enforcement and intelligence services had identified the Kazakh children shown in the video.
Kravchenko added that the country's law-enforcement agencies and intelligence services were also working to return the children to Kazakhstan.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk