09ASTANA829, KAZAKHSTAN: ISLAMIC LEADERS DISCUSS THEIR WORK, COOPERATION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA829 2009-05-13 01:32 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO2767
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0829/01 1330132
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 130132Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5406
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1582
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0959
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1662
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0642
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1144
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1060
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1516

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000829 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL/PHD 
STATE PLEASE PASS TO USAID 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EAID KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: ISLAMIC LEADERS DISCUSS THEIR WORK, COOPERATION 
WITH THE UNITED STATES 
 
ASTANA 00000829  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2. (U) SUMMARY:  During the week of April 20, USAID's Regional 
Society and State Advisor met in Astana with the Deputy Imam of the 
Nur Astana Mosque, Beibit Alikpekovich Mirzageldiyev, and in Almaty 
with the Deputy Mufti of Kazakhstan, Mukhamed-Khusein Alsabekov. 
This was the first meeting with the Deputy Imam and the second 
meeting between Deputy Mufti Alsabekov and the USAID Advisor.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
DEPUTY IMAM SHARES STORY OF ASTANA MOSQUE 
 
3. (SBU) The Nur Astana Mosque is now Astana's largest mosque, built 
in 2005 with financial help from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin 
Khalifa Al-Thani.  It has four minarets, each 63 meters (206 ft.) 
and a dome 43 meters (141 ft.) high.  The USAID Advisor met with 
Mirzageldiyev near the entrance and was surprised to observe two 
females walk out of the Mosque with their hair uncovered and wearing 
clothing that could be construed as inappropriate for mosque 
attendance.  It became readily apparent after entering, however, 
that the Mosque provides robes and scarves for females, assuring 
that women have quick and easy access to the place of worship 
regardless of their attire.  Part of the Mosque is sectioned off and 
strictly for prayer, while the remaining portion is designed for 
tour-like observance.  While there is a place reserved for females 
to pray, females not praying had the same access as tourists.  In 
this respect, the Nur Astana Mosque is closer in custom to 
historical mosques in Turkey than to some of the more traditional 
mosques in other Central Asian states. 
 
4. (SBU) Mirzageldiyev shared some interesting facts behind the 
Mosque's design.  The dome of the structure is approximately 40 
meters high, to signify that Muhammed first received revelation at 
the age of 40.  The minarets were 63 meters high, representing 
Muhammed's age at the time of his death.  Mirzageldiyev said the 
Mosque can hold up to 5,000 worshipers, but asserted that Friday 
prayers can attract as many as 7,000 worshipers.  Mirzageldiyev said 
he is from the Shymkent area in Southern Kazakhstan and pursued 
religious studies in Islamabad, Pakistan. 
 
5. (SBU) In the course of the conversation, Mirzageldiyev stressed 
several times that Kazakhstan is a peaceful and harmonious country 
because all the Muslims of Kazakhstan are Sunni and follow the 
Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence.  He underlined that 
Kazakhstan strives to respect all religions, and cited past 
conferences on 
"world" religions held in Kazakhstan.  He invited the USAID Advisor 
to attend Friday prayers in the near future. 
 
DEPUTY MUFTI OPEN TO IDEA OF ENGLISH-LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION 
 
6. (SBU) In Almaty, the USAID Advisor met with the Deputy Mufti 
Mukhamed-Khusein Alsabekov.  Alsabekov is prominent within the 
Muslim community in Kazakhstan; he has written numerous books on 
Islamic jurisprudence and is considered an authority on religious 
matters.  He is frequently featured on television, usually takes 
part in any Kazakhstani high level religious delegation, and serves 
as host when well-known religious leaders come to Kazakhstan. 
Although born and raised in Kazakhstan, he is an ethnic Chechen and 
by age 30 was the Mufti of Chechnya.  Alsabekov claims to speak 12 
languages, and writes literature in Russian, Kazakh, and classical 
Arabic. 
 
7. (SBU) This was the second time the USAID advisor met with the 
Deputy Mufti, and Alsabekov warmly welcomed him, calling him "my 
brother" and telling him that "he is welcome anytime."  Alsabekov 
shared that he was asked by Chechen and Russian authorities to 
return to Chechnya in order to lead the Muslim community there, but 
said that he declined the offer because he "is happy in Kazakhstan 
and the Kazakhstani people have shown [him] great hospitality." He 
presented three books to the visiting group and spoke about his 
long-time interest in the United States. 
 
8. (SBU) It is clear that Alsabekov occupies a position of respect 
and influence within the Chief Mufti's office.  During the visit, he 
 
ASTANA 00000829  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
fielded several phone calls that were conducted completely in 
Arabic.  On one call, he was asked to render a decision about a 
Muslim accidently buried in a Christian cemetery many decades ago, 
and whether to remove the body for reburial.  Alsabekov's office
 
wall features several photographs of him with prominent political 
and religious figures, including President of Kazakhstan Nursultan 
Nazarbaev, the former head of Saudi Arabia's religious establishment 
Sheikh Bin Baz (now deceased), the Iranian Ayatollah Mousavi, and 
former Malaysian President Mahathir. 
 
9. (SBU)  Asked about the Embassy's proposal to place three 
English-Language Fellows (ELFs) in madrassas or within the 
Secretariat of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims (SAMK), 
Alsabekov responded positively, saying the idea could prove 
potentially helpful to both students and administrative officials. 
[NOTE:  The Embassy's proposal has been tentatively welcomed by SAMK 
officials, but the Chief Mufti has yet to issue his final decision. 
END NOTE] He observed that English is extremely valuable for 
international conferences and would provide him and his colleagues 
easier access to international forums.  USAID Advisor assured 
Alsabekov that should the proposal be accepted, he would be happy to 
work with the prospective teachers to ensure they are fully aware of 
local norms and Islamic etiquette.  Alsabekov was hopeful that such 
an English-language program could be established, using the Arabic 
word inshallah, or "God willing." 
 
MILAS

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