Almaty: Kazakhstan's upper house of Parliament has approved a bill to tighten rules on the registration of religious groups, a move that critics say is a blow to freedom of belief in the ex-Soviet nation.
The bill approved on Thursday by the Senate will require existing religious organisations to dissolve and register again through a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups.
Backers of the revised law on religion, including authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbayev, say the legislation will help combat religious extremism in this mainly Muslim Central Asian nation.
Critics are angered by the speed with which the bill has been rushed through Parliament. The Washington-based watchdog Freedom House says the provisions will curb the rights of Kazakhs to freely practice and express their faith.
First Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 13:21