ISSN 2330-717X

Religion And Politics In Kyrgyzstan: A Study Of Chubak Aji’s Sympathizers – Analysis

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Introduction

For last few years, local scholars have been arguing about the gained popularity of Chubak Aji (IMM, 2015). His speeches and statements raise public disputes and even bring controversial discussions. Therefore, this research paper focuses on question: “To what extend are Chubak Aji Jalilov’s view is supported by ordinary people in the Kyrgyz Republic? The analysis reveals that Chubak Aji’s calls against the government and the Constitution are justified by the sympathizers due to the interpretation of his ideas through Quran.

Advocates have shown the substantial level of support in Chubak Aji’s activities. Overall, the paper has found out that the sympathizers follow the religious scholars’ teachings and are not in favor of the elements of the secular system of government in the Kyrgyz Republic.

The primary concerning point in this paper is that Chubak Aji is actively participating in social and political life of Kyrgyzstan and promoting controversial and religious debates among the government officials and the population (IMM, 2015). On the one hand, there are people who highly discourage Chubak Aji’s activities since they are considered as anti-secular and unacceptable for multi-ethnic society of Kyrgyzstan.

For instance, regarding this point Elaman Karymshakov says that, “Chubak Aji proposed to legalize polygamy in the Kyrgyz Republic. The human rights activist underlines that not only does he himself violate the law; he also calls others to do this. Human rights organization “Kylym Shami” will apply to the city prosecutor’s office to give legal assessment on his actions”(2017, p.8). It can be comprehended from this point that his proposal resulted in the strong resonance and the hot discussion between politicians and citizens of the state. In addition, Sharie Ryder argues that “C. Jalilov wants to show that he wanted to spit on secular laws and women’s rights, spit on the Criminal Code and the Constitution. Jalilov wants to show that in Kyrgyzstan, the Constitution is not first, but the Koran”(S.Ryder, 2017). In other words, the scholars believe that his controversial ideas impose a threat towards the legal system and secularity of the state and, in the long-run, Quran will play the predominant role and substitute the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic.

Furthermore, Kabar National Agency notes that, “According to C.Jalilov’s call not to celebrate Nooruz, the State Commission for Religious Affairs of the KR sent a request to the Chairman of the “Aalam Council”. The State Commission recalls that the holiday “Nooruz” is included in the list of official holidays according to the Labor Code of the Kyrgyz Republic”(Kabar, 2018). The recent proposal by the scholar related to Nooruz national holiday is causing a lot if controversies in the government, since the officials notice some discriminative character in his calls which is against moral values of the social groups and other nations in the Kyrgyz Republic. Even though Kyrgyzstan is considered to be secular, the statements by Chubak Aji are highly religious and contradictory to the state’s governmental systems and forms.

On the other hand, there are political and religious activists who support his ideas and activities in the state. According to the director of “Aalymdar association” Mars Ibraev, “Chubak Aji is only conveying the verses in Quran and it is not sinful to marry more than once according to Sharia law. It is better for women to get married here rather than being suffered in foreign states”(E.Karymshakov, 2017). The sympathizers of Chubak Aji’s activities underline that a lot of Kyrgyz women leave their homeland and, consequently, decrease the number of Kyrgyz nationality in the country. Their main explanation for the scholar’s proposal is that polygamy keeps women to be taken care of and provided for in the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, Jyldyz Sultanova says that “He has done the right thing. According to Sharia law, men do not have to ask permission from their first wives to get married again”(S.Ryder, 2017).

Human rights activists, politicians and citizens of Kyrgyzstan have different ideological perceptions and standpoints and it can be noted that Chubak Aji has sympathizers and opponents in the state. The point is that these two-sided perceptions of individuals can cause a division in the society, since the supporters of Chubak Aji and defenders of secular system convey completely varied massages.

Opponents believe that his proposals are jeopardizing the normative legal act and moral values of the population and sympathizers encourage him due to the mentioned verses about polygamy in Quran and potentials for the improvement of women’s standards of living.

Why should a reader be interested in the scholar’s activities?

This paper discusses one of actual topic in Kyrgyzstan, which is connected with the influence of religious figures to political system of Kyrgyzstan. Chubak Aji has been raising unprecedented topics in the Kyrgyz politics and society. It is a great challenge for Kyrgyz government to respond for statement of Chubak Aji when the radicalization of the society is criticized by social scientists in Central Asia.

The government response for radical statements, which are connected with the celebration of national holiday, polygamy issue, early marriage and others, are carefully observed by ordinary citizens. People analyze how far religious leaders can intervene; social and political life and is Kyrgyz government able to react. As an example one can refer to Uran Botobekov’s view who argues that “A parliamentary committee was considering a draft bill to extend lunch breaks on Fridays — up to two hours — to better allow Muslims to perform Friday prayers. Among the lobbyists for this proposed legislation were the country’s Islamic leaders, including Chubak Jalilov.

On June 6, the relevant Parliament committee declined to pass the draft; naturally, the Islamic leaders who had lobbied for the bill were dissatisfied”(U.Botobekov, 2016). The dissatisfaction led the ex-mufti to criticize the political system of Kyrgyzstan, leading to the opposition between the government and the Muslim community. The occurrence clearly shows that Chubak Aji challenged political order and the legislation in the parliamentary system of Kyrgyzstan. Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic clearly indicates that Kyrgyzstan is the secular state and the practice of marrying more than one woman is restricted (S.Ryder, 2017).

Furthermore, the religious scholar possesses a vast amount of audience on social media networks. According to the International Mass media Agency, “The sermon well-known theologian, Chubak Jalilov is very popular in the Muslim world. The number of subscribers to its channels in social networks has up to 300 thousand people. The former mufti Chubak Aji is known for the fact that theological education in Saudi Arabia and is a strong supporter of the Salafi (Wahhabi) ideas”(IMM, 2015). In fact, based on the preliminary research, the paper has found out that Chubak Aji’s training lessons and speeches are actively manifested on YouTube channel “Nassat Media” where the number of subscribers is 214,816 people so far (personal research, May 28, 2018). While watching his training lessons and teachings, it is worth mentioning that he has a charismatic personality, since he brilliantly attracts the audience and he definitely possesses a high profile within the Muslim community in Kyrgyzstan. Social media is right now one of the significant tools of psychological propaganda and influence. It is undeniable that thousands of people are able to influence their other peers, relatives and friends.

Therefore, the paper will accentuate at the revelation of valid explanations for why the supporters choose him in the first place. Most social scientists and local experts have been discussing actively this religious figure. If some of them argue connecting it with the growth of religious people due to external influence from Islamic countries, others also explain it with the decline of education(IMM, 2015). In this respect, paper will have actuality to discuss about the sympathizer’s incentives and motives in endorsing the religious scholar.

The methodology of the research will be based upon primary and secondary source literature including, journal articles, statistical data, reports. In order to make a better analysis, this paper is concentrated on the interviewing of sympathizers of C.Jalilov. So the focus group will consist of four people of different generations: two respondents at the age of around twenty and two people who are over forty years old.

The primary questions that will be asked during the survey are:

1) How often do you read Chubak Aji’s articles or watch his video lessons? 2) Who do you prefer: Chubak Aji or Fethullah Gulen? And why?

3) What makes Chubak Aji significant in following Islam?

4) Do you support his controversial ideas about polygamy and restrictions against Nooruz national holiday? Why?

The arguments and important ideas of the human rights activists and political activists are manifested in the beginning paragraphs of the paper. The problem statement and the significance of paper are concentrated on the revelation of contradictory points of individuals who are in favor and against the proposal of Chubak Aji. Hence, these paragraphs have been compiled by secondary source analysis. The following paragraphs are primarily focused on the results obtained during the interview of the sympathizers of Chubak Aji.

Firstly, a reader will be able to be informed about the level of reference to Chubak Aji’s video posts in “Nasaat Media” and the scholarly works of the activist. Secondly, the paper will attempt to investigate the level of preference between Chubak Aji and Fethullah Gulen and reveal the answers about why the particular scholar is deemed to be more significant. Furthermore, the research paper provides with specific points about the reasons for why the advocates encourage the deeds of the scholar. In other words, it will portrait some respondents’ explanations concerning personal qualities and qualifications of Chubak Aji that make him stand out from other religious scholars and activists in the state. Later on, the readers will be able to discover about the sympathizers’ attitudes towards Chubak Aji’s anti-governmental and religious statements related to the objection of the national holiday “Nooruz” and the proposal about the legalization of polygamy in Kyrgyzstan.

Frequency of approaching to Chubak Aji’s teachings

The interviewing of sympathizers during the survey has manifested that videos on social media by Chubak Aji play a prevailing role than his books and articles nowadays. The popularity of his editions resulted in the active involvement of people in the Internet. As a matter of fact, one of the supporters of the scholar Nurzada Asanova says that “She is waiting for new releases of video on “Nasaat-Media” every week. She watches them because they are very inspirational and give recommendations on how to live in a right way”(N.Asanova, personal communication, May 1, 2018). The survey has investigated that videos by Chubak Aji are deemed to be popular due to their educational nature.

Furthermore, Semetei Sulaiman uuli highlights that, “He does not miss Chubak Aji’s new videos since they are very interesting and debatable. He follows his lessons because of the charismatic nature of the scholar and persuasive public speaking skills”(Semetei Sulaiman uulu, personal communication, May 1, 2018). So, it should be highlighted that the scholar’s prominent charisma and confidence resulted in the growth of his followers in the Internet. At the same time, parents play an important role in attracting the children towards the scholar’s articles and teachings. For instance, Zhadyrayim Akunova argues that “She permanently watches his video lessons. When she studied at school, she used to read C.Jalilov’s books several times since her mother recommended. Right now she follows his channel and loves watching them. They are great because the channel manifests videos based on the real stories of people and prophets in Islam. Also the video shows right deeds that people ought to follow. These deeds are really effective in increasing the level of morality of people. In addition, the channel has videos in Russian language which are very comfortable to watch”(Z. Akunova, personal communication, May 1, 2018). Hence, the reader can be informed that the videos are seen on a daily basis by the sympathizers. The interesting instructions, sophisticated communication skills of the scholar and the concentration on moral values keep them continue watching.

Chubak Aji Jalilov or FethullahGulen

Through interviewing Chubak Aji’s advocates, the paper has found that Chubak Aji plays a more prevailing role in people’s lives than other religious scholars. It should be mentioned that some respondents have relatively less knowledge about Fethullah Gullen’s mission and activities. Some have chosen neutral positions while talking about two scholars. For instance, two advocates N. Asanova and S. Rysbaiuulu argue that they rely on Chubak Aji’s view more and they have not heard about F. Gullen (May 1, 2018, personal communication).

On the other side, Meerim Akunova notes that, “It is a controversial question, as long as she does not have adequate information about F.Gulen, it is hard to say objectively. Chubak Aji is a local scholar from Kyrgyzstan so he is closer to Kyrgyz people. For instance we can refer to his challenge to government officials concerning religious rights. But F.Gulen – he is well known for construction of educational institutions across the world. His contribution towards the development of education in Kyrgyzstan is crucial and admirable. But this question remains open” (M. Akunova, personal communication, May 5, 2018). Correspondingly, Chubak Aji’s sympathizers are less informed about F. Gulen but know that his activities are connected with spreading quality education in the world.

At the same time, Zhadyrayim Akunova argues that, “Chubak Aji is a Kyrgyz scholar and lives in Kyrgyzstan, so she knows about him more. He is living in the USA now and influential in Turkey as Chubak Aji here in Kyrgyzstan. She read F. Gullen’s books which were about the prophet. She cannot say for sure whom she prefers, since every scholar attempts to deliver his own message and everyone has his unique style”’ (Z. Akunova, personal communication, May 1, 2018). The main difference between two scholars is that Chubak Aji is actively involving in religious and governmental affairs of Kyrgyzstan, but F. Gulen is known for his focus on spreading educational institutions. Hence, the paper has explored that the fact that Chubak Aji is from Kyrgyzstan raises the level of awareness about the scholar and people have more tendency to argue about him.

Significance of Chubak Aji Jalilov

What makes C. Jalilov significant? Why do you support the scholar? What are the reasons that explain his success? These questions were raised while conducting the interview about the significance of him. The first explanation is that C. Jalilov is deemed to be good at legal issues and frameworks of Islam. His graduation from the University of Saudi Arabia “Um-al-Quro” contributed to his sophisticated knowledge in Abd-Al-Wahab’s teachings and jurisprudence (Muslimbiz, 2018).

One of the supporters Nurzada Asanova has shared with the author by saying that, “He knows legal conditions of religion and how to implement these laws in a proper way. If there is a conflict between a husband and a wife, Chubak Aji helps to settle these issues peacefully. I also rely on his teachings while raising my children. Other scholars cannot adequately say what to do in human problems but he has this ability to assure and that makes him significant”(Nurzada Asanova, personal communication, May 1, 2018). The interview has manifested that the scholar’s religious education overseas resulted in the support of people in Kyrgyzstan. Moreover, his effective recommendations concerning family issues to parents attract the senior people.

The next interesting point about the significance of the scholars is reflected in Chubak Aji’s open personality and braveness. According to Zhadyrayim Akunova, “When he was a mufti, he had to obey the government regulations, but he had the ability to encourage Muslims. He could ideally identify the first date of Ramadan by looking at the moon the day before the beginning. Before and after his ruling, other muftis set the time incorrectly due to the governments’ decisions. But he is the only bravest mufti who could identify correctly”(Z.Akunova, personal communication, May 1, 2018 ). A reader can comprehend that he stands out from other religious scholars with a communication without boundaries and fears. Moreover, he possesses an ability to interpret quite serious issues into humorous words and that’s the core personality of the orator (M. Akunova, personal communication, May 5, 2018). Hence, the scholar appeals his audience due to his great personal qualities which are: literacy, individuality, charisma, courageousness and a good sense of humor.

His educational background also invokes sympathizers to rely on him (Semetei Sulaiman iuulu, personal communication, May 1, 2018). At the same time, parents and senior people support the scholar by virtue of his legal knowledge of Islam.

Supporters’ attitude towards C. Jalilov’s ideas and proposals

In conducting the survey about the scholar’s ideas, the paper proposed questions related to the national holiday and polygamy. Based on the obtained answers, it should be noted that the attitudes of the respondents are supportive. For instance, Nurzada Asanova argues that “She endorses his proposal about legalization of polygamy, since this is written in Quran. C. Jalilov delivers the words from the holy book towards the population. It’s up to a person whether he will live with two or more spouses. The more important things is that whether a husband can feed his family members or not (Nurzada Asanova, personal communication, May 1, 2018). So, the information manifests that sympathizers support Chubak Aji, because he only interprets some messages from Quran and if a person is Muslim, so he or she needs to respect the laws in the book.

Similarly, Zhadyrayim Akunova and Semetei Sulaiman uulu agree that, “They are not able to object to Quran. Our law is Quran and it says that under certain circumstances polygamy is allowed.”(Z. Akunova, S. Sulaiman uulu ,personal communication, May 1). These thoughts of the sympathizers show that religious norms and teachings are prioritized over the official laws ratified by the Constitution.

Furthermore, Meerim Akunova explains that (M. Akunova, personal communication, May 5) , “Legalization of polygamy in Kyrgyzstan is considered to be insulting. But if we take into account some life factors and breeding, than polygamy can be encouraged. If some specific life circumstances require to marry twice, the actions of a husband can be justified” (M. Akuniva, personal information, May 5). Hence, the investigation has found out that all the respondents have positive viewpoints concerning the proposal of polygamy in Kyrgyzstan by Chubak Aji. The main reason of their support is that Quran mentions the allowance of polygamy under particular cases and the sympathizers tend to follow the verses in the book.

Regarding Chubak Aji’s recent call not to celebrate Nooruz national holiday, advocates came up with content answers. The study has revealed that the sympathizers celebrate only the religious holidays and the official holidays ratified by the Constitution are deemed to be pointless and sinful. As a matter of fact, Zhadyrayim Akunova argues that she accepts only three holiday, which are Kurban Ait, Orozo Ait and every Friday and she does not celebrate Nooruz and perceives only holidays which are written in Quran (May 1, 2018, personal information). Correspondingly, Semetei Sulaiman uulu has similar points about Nooruz holiday, since he highly encourages Chubak Aji’s calls and believes that it would be great if the state canceled the national holiday(May 1, 2018, personal communication). So, the survey manifests that the sympathizers agree with the scholar’s statement about Nooruz and the religious holidays are perceived to be the number one priority.

According to Meerim Akunova, “I am absolutely on Chubak Aji’s side. As long the history shows, Nooruz is the celebration of pagans, not Muslim people. Only superstitious individuals perceive Nooruz as a holiday. This is the same as believing in black cats. The superstition that is passed on orally” (May 5, 2018, personal communication). In other words, the national holiday is considered to be the symbol of paganism by the viewpoints of sympathizers. They show very distant attitude towards the national holiday, as it is regarded as the holiday of non-Muslims. Hence, it should be noted that the respondents fully support the scholar’s idea about the rejection of Nooruz.

Conclusion

The main purpose of the paper was to analyze Chubak Aji’s sympathizers and to what extend he is influential to ordinary citizen’s opinion. As respondents answered Chubak Aji plays more prevailing role in people’s lives than other religious scholars in Kyrgyzstan. His popularity in one hand is connected with his active use of social media, where he shares information about his Islamic view and answers such as what is right and what is wrong? What is important in this life? What are Islamic moral values?

The research has investigated that the scholar’s charismatic personality, braveness, confidence and persuasive public skills serve as the main components of his success and resulted in the growth of sympathizers in social media networks. Overall, it can be concluded that the scholar’s teachings are seen in a regular way.

Furthermore, as his latest statements manifest that Chubak Aji openly challenged the Kyrgyz government with his view regarding national holidays, traditional values of Kyrgyz people and the role of women in the society. Most human rights advocates criticized Chubak Aji and asked government to respond properly, because his statements and activities violated women rights. However, the advocates support his statements due to the reference of polygamy in Quran and the obtained results about this argument were non-contradictory. Regarding the elimination of Nooruz national holiday, sympathizers are found to be on Chibak Aji’s side, since they believe that this holiday originated from pagans and non-Muslim people. The point is that the constitution manifests that women and men have equal rights and it forbids polygamy in our secular country. Therefore, when Chubak Aji raised this issue, it was not only about his second marriage, but also it was about his attitude as a religious leader, who has hundreds of followers and sympathizers.

Last but not least, the paper has found out that Chubak Aji’s sophisticated knowledge in jurisprudence contributed towards involvement of senior individuals of the state. As a result, Nurzada Asanova highlights his good instructions regarding the family law that helps to raise her children and keep a stable relationship. In a comparison of the popularity of F. Gullen and Chubak Aji, the interview portraits that people have less knowledge about F. Gullen. The location and the nationality of Chubak Aji raise the level of preference of sympathizers while discussing about two activists. However, Meerim Akunova and Zhadyrayim Akunova mentioned F. Gullen’s effort and contribution to the spread of Turkish values and successful educational institutions all over the world.

*Cholpon Kainazarova, is a student at the International Alatoo University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Bibliography
The International Mass Media Agency, “Kyrgyzstan is still a secular country, but how to deal with religious obscurantism?”, 2017, https://intmassmedia.com/2017/07/22/kyrgyzstan-is-still-a-secular-country-but-how-to- deal-with-religious-obscurantism/
ElamanKarymshakov, “ЧубакAжынынмаселесикайраданкызылчекетүшүргөндө”, 2017, https://sputnik.kg/society/20171128/1036556260/kop-ayalduuluktun-myjzamduu-zhana-dinij-zhaktary.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-42150072
Muslimbiz, “Биография ЧубакажыЖалилов”, 2017, http://muslimbiz.kg/aalam/ustazyi/chubiak-azhyi- zhalilov/biografiya-chubak-azhyi-zhalilov/
Nurzada Asanova, May 1, 2018, interview conducted by the author Zhadyrayim Akunova, May 1, 2018, interview conducted by the author Semetei Sulaiman uulu, May 1, 2018, interview conducted by the author Meerim Akunova, May 5, 2018, interview conducted by the author


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