International Video Conference Concerning Extremism


The Center of Eurasian Political Research of ASU, the Astrakhan-24 TV Channel, and the Center of Analytical Research “Eurasian Monitoring” (Kazakhstan) have arranged the International Video Conference “Religious Extremism in Caspian Littoral & Central Asian Countries”.

International Video Conference Concerning Extremism

The event concerned the origins of religious extremism in the post-Soviet countries, means that the state and the civil society could apply to counteract it, and prevention of radical ideas among young people. Experts from three countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kirgizia – took part in this Conference.

Shortly before this event, the Center of Eurasian Political Research of Astrakhan State University arranged the roundtable “Religious Extremism in Caspian Littoral & Central Asian Countries”. To continue the set theme, it was decided to arrange a virtual meeting with experts from Central Asia.

Initiating the discussion, Mr. Andrey Syzranov, Chief of the Center of Eurasian Political Research, pointed out that three aspects are essential to analyze the origins and the causes of religious extremism in post-Soviet countries: young people, migration, and social justice. “Young people can easily be recruited because of their maximalism. As we can see, extremism is rising in Europe now, as there’s a permanent migration there”, he said.

The participants of the video conference discussed the factors that contribute to the development of religious extremism. The Internet (in particular, social networks) was mentioned as a primary factor. Answering the asked question about international links of the radical group that organized a terrorist attack in the city of Aktobe in Kazakhstan on June 05, Mr. Eduard Poletaev, Chief of the Public Fund “World of Eurasia” in Almaty (Kazakhstan), remarked that rapid development of social networks and a strong wish to arrange a terrorist attack may provoke someone to do that even without any foreign instructions.

Mr. Eldar Idrisov, Deputy Director of the Astrakhan Branch of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, added that the role of the Internet as a means to share religious knowledge and values is rising due to present-day globalization. He pointed out that the Web applies more powerful and influential tools to impact people than any other verbal practice.

Ms. Alina Moldokeeva (Bishkek, Kirgizia) remarked that Islamization is growing rapidly in the Kirgiz segment of the Internet. “One can find arguments about religious dogmas and about the role of religion in the state more and more frequently in the Internet. Quite often, those debates are of definitely radical character, which is surely an alarm signal”, she pointed out.

Mr. Poletaev also remarked that religious education obtained abroad is a major source of religious radicalism. “Once the borders became open, a lot of young people went to study in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, where they grasped ideas that are not typical for the Hanafi School, which is traditional for the Kazakh people”.

Mr. Alibek Tazhibaev, Director of the Center of Analytical Research “Eurasian Monitoring” (Almaty, Kazakhstan), emphasized a real shortage of competent specialists in the official Islamic clergy system. “As we know from Kazakhstani media reports, there are real cases of making religious fanatics reject their extremist ideas after they talked with professional preachers. At the same time, there’s a serious lack of specialists in religious issues, who might work to change fundamental values of those who were impacted by radical ideas”, he said.

The experts agreed that social and migration issues, as well as how the notion of justice is interpreted in modern societies, are a favorable environment for religious extremism to develop. Mr. Idrisov pointed out that the religious factor, as well as national and ethnic identity, is an essential tool to form someone’s identity.

Mr. Denis Berdakov (Bishkek, Kirgizia) added that weak legal authorities are a favorable soil for extremism to grow. He mentioned that Kirgizia’s legal authorities are bureaucratic and not very efficient; they cannot provide security and execution of laws completely. Consequently, the religious sphere is exerting a powerful influence; religious leaders create large network structures. Thus, religion is becoming a crucial factor of political life in Kirgizia.

As a result of the discussion, the experts agreed that no state can provide an absolute protection from terrorism; the Caspian littoral and Central Asian region is facing high geopolitical risks, since it is rich in natural resources and its transit potential is high, which cannot but attract attention of the global “game players”. At the same time, such institutions as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization are supposed to provide stability in this region.

Russian original information and photo source: the Center of Eurasian Political Research of ASU Translated by E.I. Glinchevskiy (the Center of Translation Studies & Conference Interpreting “ASTLINK” of ASU)