Islam, Gender and Education in Kazakhstan (Central Asia)

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Islam, Gender and Education in Kazakhstan Nazgul Mingisheva (Karaganda Bolashak University, Kazakhstan) nazgulm2006@gmail.com Paper presented at the ASN World Convention Columbia University, April 19-21 2012 Please do not cite without the author’s permission © Nazgul Mingisheva

Abstract My paper is focused on the preliminary results and hypothesis of my research on Islam, gender and education in present-days Kazakhstan. The research purpose is to discover some relationships between dynamically developed Islam and present gender relations, in particular, among young people. The Kazakh officials started to build the concept of traditional Islam in the last years. I would research how the governmental discourse about understanding of Islam shapes young people’s discourse. In addition, I consider some attitudes of young male and female about family, education, work, public, and religious values. The basic research method is open interview with senior male and female students who identify themselves as Muslims and represent gender inequality in their discourses. My fieldwork consists of observations for last two years and interviews completed from October to December of 2011 in Karaganda city in Central Kazakhstan. Introduction After the extremist attacks in Western and Southern Kazakhstan in October and November of 2011 and the governmental declaration to design the concept of the traditional (moderate) Islam in Kazakhstan it is the time to rethink and re-interpret social processes through religious, powerful, and gender relations to better understand how Islam and authorities could shape gender discourses in present-days Kazakhstan. I would suppose that young people represent how gender attitudes are changed and constructed under religious and power discourses. The object of my research is young men and women who identify themselves as Muslims and study at universities in Kazakhstan. For recent years a number of such students are growing. It is evident when these students, primary male, ask a special excuse from instructors to go to Mosque for Friday prayers. The main research questions of my paper are the following: Why young people turn to Islam, and how do they study Islam? How are social and family values of 1

 
 

young generation changed under Islam? What is a higher education for young men and women? Do Islamic institutions influence on emerging of gender inequality among youth? I conducted my fieldwork in 2010-2011 observing Muslim students at the university and taking open-end interviews of senior male and female students in fall of 2011. The names of the students are anonymous. My research carried out in Karaganda city of Central Kazakhstan. Theoretical approaches Although the process of institutionalization of Islam in Kazakhstan takes the period from 1990 to the present, the concept of traditional Islam building emerged only in recent years. For Kazakhstan’s government the traditional Islam means moderate that could be explained by dominance of Hanafi Sunni among Muslim population in the country. After relatively peaceful in compare with the rest Central Asian countries of twenty years of Islamic institutions development, Kazakhstan impacted with different displaying of extremist activities in Western and Southern Kazakhstan from July to November in 2011. In my mind, the Kazakh authorities have to fasten and strengthen their efforts to build the idea of traditional Islam in the country during last year after these events which led to several victims and injured people. What is the traditional Islam? Is it possible to build the conception of traditional Islam in Kazakhstan? Is the idea of traditional Islam as some attempt to oppose moderate Islam to Islamic diversity and, particularly, to Salafi communities in Kazakhstan? How does this moderate Islam shape gender relationships in present-days Kazakhstan? What is about the category of tradition, I would like to consider some different aspects of it...
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