President Orders His Words Inscribed Next to Qur'anic Verses at Mosque

June 3, 2004

Source: BBC News

On June 3, 2004 the BBC News reported, "The president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, has ordered that his own words be inscribed alongside verses of the Koran on a new mosque being built just outside the capital Ashgabat, intended to be the biggest in all Asia. The president announced that craftsmen would add lines from his book called 'the Ruhnama' on the immense façade. Mr. Niyazov, known generally as Turkmenbashi or Leader of the Turkmens, is president for life in Turkmenistan but his absolute temporal power is now taking on an ever more spiritual overtone...the Ruhnama - the Book of the Soul - [is] a collection of [Niyazov's] musings which is required reading in schools. Aphorisms like 'smile at one another' make up much of the text, along with guidelines for good manners...It is the latest stage in what seems like a blurring between Turkmenbashi's earthly power and religious authority...The presidents critics in exile accuse him of deliberately propagating the impression that he is almost a prophet but Turkmenbashi himself has always been careful to avoid going too far towards sacrilege."