Kyrgyzstan Passes New Law Restricting Religion

The parliament of Kyrgyzstan has passed new legislation that curtails religious liberty and undermines international human rights standards.

The measure, passed unanimously Nov. 6, cracks down on proselytism in the Muslim country and requires faith-based organizations to disclose financial information to authorities.

The bill also bans private religious teaching at all levels of education while providing religious instruction in public schools. Under the terms of the legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, religious literature cannot be disseminated in public places.

The purpose behind the law, observers say, is to prevent the influence of foreign evangelical Christian groups and radical Islamic organizations.

European Parliament members signed a joint declaration stressing the need to respect religious liberty, even at the risk of religious extremism.

The country, which is considered the most democratic ex-Soviet republic, has traditionally respected religious freedom, but has been criticized for curbing political freedoms since Bakiyev became president in 2005.