After Friday prayers ended recently at Atyrau’s Old Mosque, a crowd of men, most of them younger than 30, poured onto the street. Many were wearing the distinctive shortened trousers and long beards with trimmed mustaches of Muslims who are striving to emulate the Prophet Muhammad. Down the street, a camera on a telephone pole recorded everyone who entered and left the mosque.
On the eve of an Amnesty International report that takes Azerbaijan to task for restrictions on individual liberty, Azerbaijani legislators on November 15 imposed stiff state controls on religious activity. Political analysts see the government’s meddling in the realm of faith as an effort to limit neighboring Iran’s ability to influence Azerbaijani affairs.
Amid Turkey’s turn away from strict secularism, Islamic banking practices in the country are gaining currency. But they still face significant obstacles as they strive to enter the financial mainstream.
A few miles east of downtown Bishkek, where the asphalt road dissolves into pitted dirt lanes amid Soviet-era apartment blocks, a newly renovated mosque gleams in the night. Inside, sitting on the floor under three bare fluorescent bulbs, a young man speaks in Kyrgyz to a group of 12 men.
Imomali Rahmon, Tajikistan’s president, celebrated his 59th birthday in a most unusual manner. On October 5, appearing on national television and sporting a hard hat, he got behind the wheel of an excavator and launched the construction phase of what is projected to be the largest mosque in the former Soviet Union.