• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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The great creation of Türkmenbasy, Native land, sovereign state, Türkmenistan, light and song of soul, Long live and prosper for ever and ever!

A great new blog by The Blogmenbashi charts “President Sapurmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan and the infinite wisdom of his words and deeds”. Niyazov, the “Turkmenbashi” (father of the Turks), is a flamboyant megalomaniac in the tradition of Caligula and Amin, and like them his despotism is so excessive that tragedy comes interlaced with black humour.

Niyazov is Turkmenistan’s former Communist ruler who has made Turkmenistan into “his own little USSR”, according to a foreign diplomat, with a cult based around his own personality mixed with Islam. As he writes in the Ruhnama, his Book of the Soul which Muslims and Christians must touch whenever they enter a mosque or church:

Fate gave me the role of being leader of Türkmenistan at the juncture of the second and third millennia. The burden of the responsibility of taking my people from the last years of the second millennium, in which things did not go well, to the summits of the third millenium fell onto my shoulders.

This position and responsibility, which have been given to me without my asking, have motivated me to call up my spiritual, intellectual and physical strength that Allah granted me with and use them as a societal force to achieve progress in my country.

This means political and religious oppression, as well as bizarre rulings such as renaming the word for “bread” after his mother. Contrary to Islamic teaching, Niyazov has declared himself to be a Prophet. The current Sunni Mufti is in prison for opposing the personality cult, and religious groups other than Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy are banned – as, Ross Perot-like, are beards. Dissenters risk being taken to “The Ministry of Fairness”. But as an opponent of Islamic fundamentalism, Niyazov is unlikely to face much pressure from the West to mend his ways.

One Response

  1. […] What the report lacks (to start with), is any sort of wider context. How, for example, does the breadth of human rights advocacy in the mainline churches compare with that of the conservative groups? And how do the two interact? Is it surprising that mainline churches are pro-Palestinian, when conservative leaders continually assert that Israeli policy is guided by God? Or that they criticize their own government when conservatives reject any real substantial self-criticism, complacent that their might means they must be right? The authors also accuse the mainline churches of having supported “Marxist-Leninists” in South America and elsewhere. But is that a surprise, when the conservatives have supported the likes of Riot Montt simply because he was a co-religionist, and were happy to advocate Rhodesia, apartheid South Africa and Chiang Kai-shek in the name of anti-Communism? A special concern about Israel hardly requires delving into unconscious motives, either. America is deeply involved with Israel, Israel is continually on the news, and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to regional stability. Of course, then, Christians are going to have more to say about Ariel Sharon than about the Turkmenbashi. […]

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