Context Column


Conference "Islam in the Modern Secular State", September 28-29, Bishkek

At the invitation of the State Commission on Religious Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, Dr. Arne C. Seifert attended a conference on the above topic in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz organizers emphasized the international dimension of the problems to be dealt with by a broad regional and foreign presence of participants, including the Foreign Minister of India, the Minister of Culture of Egypt, the representative of the Belgian Parliament, the Head of the EU Representation for Central Asia, OSCE, UNDP, heads of authorities on religious and national minorities affairs, including of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan.


President Atambayev, the initiator and patron of the conference, spoke in his introductory speech of new challenges for the secular state in a religious increasingly Islam oriented society. By its tenor, his speech highlighted, inter alia, following accents: The secular state must gain its strength in and from the ability to keep the society in balance even under changing religious and social conditions. He called for tolerance and dialogue between and within different religious currents, including the Islamic. He called for a " prudent and reasonable " support for a "rational Islam". With its representatives, the state must strive "in a democratic way for consensus". The President proposed to the participants to establish an "international basis of dialogue" in Kyrgyzstan.


That the organizers included experts from 19 countries in the discussions underlined their interest in open, creative problem treatment. This was also contributed to by Dr. Seifert with two presentations on the topics "Relations Between the Secular State and Religion in a German Perspective" and "What Could Modernity of Secular Islamic Relations be in a Cen-tral Asian Secular State with a Muslim Majority of Population". In conclusion, the participants supported a draft declaration for the inauguration of an international dialogue platform in Bishkek, which should address aspects such as the place and role of Islam in the modern state, the promotion of the interaction of state and religion, and interreligious dialogue.