CAIRO - A new mufti has been elected in Kazakhstan to administer the religious affairs of the Muslim community in the former Soviet Republic.
"During the direct voting, the candidacy of Yerzhan Malgajyuly Mayamerov, former head of the East Kazakhstan branch of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan, was unanimously approved, a spokesman for the administration said.
He was elected as Grand Mufti and chairman of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan.
Born in 1972, Mayamerov studied Islamic Shari`ah at Egypt's Al-Azhar University.
After graduation in 2008, he remained in Egypt for three years for completing his religious study.
In 2011, he was appointed a representative of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan in the East Kazakhstan region.
Maramerov was elected unanimously by all participants in the 7th meeting of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan.
His election came after Mufti Absattar haji Derbisali resigned earlier this month.
"On 14th February this year during the meeting of the Presidium of the Spiritual Board, I expressed that I want to leave the office and devote myself to science and creativity, Derbisali told attendees.
Not long before that, at a meeting with the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, I also told him my wish. He accepted my initiative.
The Mufti is the highest religious official in Kazakhstan.
He is responsible for issuing religious edicts (fatwas) on interpretations of Islamic Shari`ah.
Islam is the dominant religion in Kazakhstan, which has a large Christian minority, belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to the CIA Fact Book, Muslims make up 47 percent of the population, Russian Orthodox 44 percent, Protestant 2 percent and others 7 percent.
Ethnic Kazakhs are historically Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school of thought.
Islam was brought to the Kazakhs during the 8th century when the Arabs arrived into Central Asia.Islam initially took hold in the southern portions of Turkestan and thereafter gradually spread northward.