October 23, 2012 by stgilbertinkz
How could Makset be accused of Islamic extremism by his home country of Uzbekistan when since the time he was a teenager been an evangelical Christian? Surely, officials in both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan cannot be that confused.
Such an assumption would be incorrect.
The evidence certainly proves otherwise. In the summer of 2008, Makset was detained by Kazakhstani authorities because they were tipped off by a policeman from his hometown of Nukus, Uzbekistan. This policeman persuaded the authorities in the city of Almaty that Makset was wanted for Islamic extremism. Because Makset still had UNHCR protection at the time, the Kazakhstani prosecutor released him after 3 days in custody. He also was rather confused by Makset’s Christian confession. Yet, we have observed such a vast lack of understanding pertaining to many religious concepts in the region.
While many Americans and other Westerners are most certainly ignorant of the religious nuances of locations throughout Central Asia, authorities such as those in Kazakhstan have no background in Christianity and three generations of state-endorsed atheistic teaching while under the rule of the USSR. For many, anyone who simply takes religion seriously is considered to be a “fanatic.” Any worldview or theological convictions that alters or shapes behavior is suspect. Many from the West are just as surprised to learn that the governments of Central Asia who were previously a part of the Soviet Union desire secularism far more than Islam, or at most, an Islam that is controlled by the State.
Thus, when Islamic extremism did start to rear it’s head in Kazakhstan back in 2010 with the first suicide bombing on their own soil, the reaction has been to amend the law on religion in 2011 to be much more restrictive of all expressions of religion. Stability trumps conscience in all things religious.
However, when the State gets in the religion business, they automatically become an oppressor, especially when they have no understanding of the theological underpinnings of religious belief and rituals. Such was the case this month when a church was raided by Kazakhstani security forces this month in the capitol city of Astana. As reported by Forum 18, the pastor of the Protestant charismatic church is being accused of passing out a “red liquid” that authorities were convinced contained hallucinogenic drugs. They even demanded that some of the church members submit blood samples for drug testing!
If authorities that are enforcing Kazakhstan’s laws on religion do not understand the most basic and well-known of Christian rituals, then it should not surprise us at all that Makset’s case is just as muddled. Notice the list of questions that interrogators were asking church members during the raid this past month:
However, police asked many unrelated questions, including: who founded the Church; why they became members in the Church; what the word “Grace” means; whether the Church has ties abroad; who finances the Church; what the meaning of tithes or offerings is; whether tithes are compulsory; why offerings are collected by individuals walking round the Church; what hierarchy exists in the Church; what one must do to become a minister in the Church; what ministries the Church has; what the term “God’s people” means; what the Communion ritual is; what “speaking in tongues” is; whether the Church’s religious propaganda affects members’ consciousness and sub-consciousness; why people seen in the video records of the Church become ecstatic when they speak in tongues and lose self-control and monotonously repeat the same phrases; whether the pastors are familiar with group psychotherapy, hypnosis, corporeal psychotherapy, musical therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, rational therapy, introduction into the state of altered consciousness; where the Church receives its literature; and what the word “Gospel” means for Kazakhstan.
Such is the context of Makset’s detention. We may live in an age of information, but that doesn’t mean that all ignorance is eradicated.
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