In Bishkek, opening of regional section of Central Asia University in the city of Naryn was solemnly declared. Its main faculties already work in the capital. Among numerous educational institutions of Kirghizia, the new college differs from others, first of all because it is being financed by Fund of Aga Khan IV who is spiritual and financial leader of the Ismailite. There are now more than 20 million of them, mainly in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tanzania, Kenya, Persian Gulf countries, Iran, Lebanon and Syria. In comparison with traditional Islam, this movement cannot be regarded as a big one. However, the Ismaili Imamat is a very influential organization in the world. This could be explained first of all with the figure, which is at the head of the religious movement. Spiritual leader of the Ismalite, Aga Khan IV (Prince Karim al-Husaini-Shah) is one of the richest people of the planet, he is real Eastern aristocrat and US Harvard graduate. At the same time, he spends all his money for spreading a teaching which appeared in the middle 8th century, after the split in Shiit Islam. While possessing a branching net of commercial structures, Aga Khan is able to finance numerous projects in Third World countries, while leading organization realizing these projects is his fund, based in 1967, which has its sections in Eastern Africa, South Asia, Europe and America. In spite of a not very big strength of the community, Ismailite leaders traditionally play a very important role in international politics. For example the grandfather of today’s prince, 48th imam of the Ismailite, sultan Mohammed-Shah Aga Khan III, was founder and first president of Muslim League, which plaid a very important role in creation of Pakistan. Within one year, he was president of League of Nations, while his successor Aga Khan IV, was in 1991 the main rival of Butros Butros Gali for US Secretary-General. Over years of his government, Aga Khan IV seriously reformed the Ismailite community. Now, it strictly submits to Main Law of the Ismailite-Nizarite, while national councils of the countries where the Ismailite live became a part of strict power vertical, ruled personally by Aga Khan. It should be noticed, that the Islamite have traditionally tense relations with Sunnite Muslims, who suppose that Ismailite dogma seriously falls off from Islam’s main regulations and is actually an independent religious doctrine. Namely, this is the reason, according to the experts, why opening of the new college in Kirghizia was accompanied with some negative comments. An interesting fact: so far Central Asia has been out of Ismaili Imamat’s control. However, in the west of Pamirs, in Badakhshan, one of the biggest Ismailite communities lives. Apropos, namely the Ismailite are backbone of the main opposition force in Tadjikistan – Tadjik Democratic Party. While Badakhshan became recently a support base of Islam militants and staging post for drag dealers. Already in 12th century, Ismailite worriers, who were known as very cruel ones, were called “hashishins,” which means “consuming hashish.” Actually, today the Ismailite’s leader practically controls Afghan province Chitral with its numerous plantations of opium poppy. Therefore, Aga Khan’s attention to this region is not casual. As for Kighizia, its interests to the Ismailite can be explained with purely financial reasons. For, to built a section of its university in Bishkek, Aga Khan apportioned dozens of millions of dollars. While according to many experts, this temporary mercnatile interest of the young state could result in serious internal problems in Kirghizia. It should be remembered at least, what was the result of the young Kirghiz’s study in religious colleges of some Arab countries. Before US anti-terrorist action in Afghanistan, more than 300 young Kirghiz studied in Muslim medrese in Pakistan. Most of them than joined the Taliban and even participated in military operations of Uzbek Islam Movement against their country. Many graduates of spiritual colleges of Saudi Arabia became Vakhabit supporters. Namely they make now the backbone of Khizb-ut-Takhrir illegal Islamic party, acting in southern regions of Kirghizia. Though, in Kirghizia itself, there are many educational institutions whose graduates are given to religious extremism. All the more, that most of them are out of any control. For example, in one of Bishkek blocks, a certain Kyrghyz-Iranian Islamic university has been functioning for two years, while neither the Justice Ministry nor the State Commission on Religion were aware of it. Totally, within recent years, five Islamic colleges were opened and about 30 medrese. But nobody took an interest in what the young Khirghz were taught there and how they will then faster their congregation after they become imams. The September 11 tragedy changed the authorities’ position on non-controlled religious education. As a result, “spiritual pluralism” was changed to pressure: the republic’s intelligence seriously restricted the number of permissions to study abroad. The question is being considered about returning home of young people who went to study illegally. The State Commission on Religions tries to control curriculum of Kirghiz colleges. However, it does not have enough qualified translators: for, lectures are given there in Farsi, Arab and Turkish languages. And now, there is the university controlled by the Ismailite, who seriously conflict with traditional for Kirghizia Sunnite branch of Islam. So, the authorities, with their own hands, spread distemper in the society, while creating conditions for future social outbursts. Moreover, Ismailite militants dream of creation Islamic Khalifat in the south of Kirghizia and they share ideas of separatism. There is information about Aga Khan’s plans to create his own state in Pamirs, including some regions of Kirghizia. While supporters of this idea will be educated in the Central Asia University which is being created now.
Yury Razgulaev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kirghizia
Translated by Vera Solovieva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/03/20/38526.html