Religious tolerance and interfaith harmony in Uzbekistan


The declaration of independence and the commitment of the government of Uzbekistan to the ideals of democracy, the choice of a secular path of society development gradually made it possible to create equal legal conditions for the existence of religions in general and religious groups in particular. In the religious sphere, this large-scale work is carried out by the relevant state bodies and civil society institutions and is aimed at providing citizens with the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of conscience; strengthening religious pluralism, tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

One of the significant results of the joint work is the adoption in December 2018 by the UN General Assembly of a special resolution “Enlightenment and Religious Tolerance”.

The adoption of the resolution was the practical implementation of the initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, put forward at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. The main goal of the proposed resolution is to ensure universal access to education, the elimination of illiteracy and ignorance”

It is noteworthy that the resolution was not only unanimously supported by all UN member states, but was also adopted with the co-sponsorship of over 50 countries. This testifies to the high recognition by the international community of the relevance and timeliness of the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan.

The document is intended to “promote tolerance and mutual respect, ensure religious freedom, protect the rights of believers, and prevent their discrimination”. The resolution emphasizes the important role of promoting peace, human rights, tolerance and friendship, and also the importance of integration, mutual respect, tolerance and understanding for the sake of strengthening security and peace on the planet.

All international, regional and national initiatives aimed at promoting interreligious, intercultural and interfaith harmony and combating discrimination against individuals based on religion or belief are welcomed in the document.

At the same time, in the adopted resolution, UN member states are invited to implement appropriate communication strategies, such as large-scale propaganda work in national and international media, as well as on the internet, and disseminate educational information about tolerance, non-violence and freedom of religion or belief. The key role of UNESCO is underlined in the document on promoting peace and security in the world by expanding cooperation among nations through education, science and culture.

In recent years, significant changes have taken place in Uzbekistan and large- scale reforms have been implemented in many areas, including religious and educational sphere.

A number of legislative acts aimed at further improvement of activities in the religious sphere have been adopted. In order to study ISLAM in depth and teach its basics, the International Islamic Academy of Uzbekistan was established. The Academy specializes both in teaching secular and religious knowledge, training qualified personnel in the interpretation of the Koran, Islamic law, religious dogmas and hadiths. In Uzbekistan, peculiar mechanisms are involved in the revival of national and religious values, propaganda of the rich scientific and spiritual heritage of great ancestors, strengthening religious tolerance in society and also the Center for Islamic Civilization, Imam Bukhari, Imam Tirmidhi and Imam Maturidi International research centers have commenced their activities.

As a result of large-scale reforms and transformations carried out in the religious sphere, the Higher Madrasah Mir Arab in Bukhara and the School of Hadith Studies in Samarkand began their activities.

Except that very issue, it was founded the Charity Social Fund under its title “Vaqf” which is administered by the Muslim’s Board of Uzbekistan. Whose wide range of tasks/duties are considered as the providence of financial support works aimed at the reconstruction of mosques, the sacred places of pilgrimages and other spots of visit; including another entities, as well as the providence of the logistical basis and the delivery issue/providence of the financial support of officer of this very particular area. The fund had got its possibility of the management of funds, which have been transferred to three (financial) accounts: charity-based, vaqf and zakah. (ushr, fidiya, fitr).

Due to the adopted legislative acts, it was approved a new composition of employees of the Council of the issue of confessions, which is considered as the social-consultation-based authority under the Committee with the further purpose of strengthening and advancement of the active work of the Committee on Religious Affairs.

Except that issue, within the Committee of Religious Affairs considering its structure. It was founded and brought to a practical existence the department, which particularly focuses its work on women and the designation of the deputy of the Chairman had been implemented, who closely deals with this very direction. It was founded the Republican propagandist’s group, which closely works with the coordination of the spiritual-enlightenment work among women.

Altogether, with this in Uzbekistan there had been given a considerable attention to the preservation of religious and spiritual heritage. The enrichment of the existing funds, considering the creation of the appropriate facilities to the local and foreign researchers, the necessary conditions for the appropriate work with the historical sources, including the comprehensive issues of studying of cultural- historical samples of the cultural heritage.

Nowadays, it was brought a foundation to the legislation basis, which considered the issue of following of all sort of rights including the legislative interests of citizens; having a direct purpose of providence of interconfessional and international agreements.

The constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan fixes the norm of the freedom of religion of each person. It is also given a considerable attention to the improvement and liberalization of the national legislation of the sphere of religion. There have been simplified the procedures of permission of production, import and spread of religious literature. The order of registration of religious organizations has been additionally improved.

“A new Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations is currently in force, which promotes ensuring of the constitutional rights of citizens of the country as well as the freedom of conscience and religion.

Currently, there are 2358 religious organizations of 16 religious denominations operating in Uzbekistan. Of these, 2161 Muslim organizations, accounting for 92 percent of the total number.

There are also one hundred seventy eight (179) Christian organizations operating in Uzbekistan, among them eight (8) Jewish communities, seven (7) communities of the Bahai Faith, one “Hari Krishna” society and one Buddhist temple, as well as the “interconfessional biblical society” of Uzbekistan.

Over the recent period, 119 religious organizations have been registered in Uzbekistan, including 2 higher and one specialized Islamic educational institution in Bukhara, Samarkand, and Termez, 93 mosques, and 23 non-Islamic organizations.

At the same time, the national legislation of Uzbekistan does not provide any restrictions on the number of religious organizations or the timing of their registration.

The religious organizations operating in the Republic, along with other public organizations, actively participate in spiritual and educational works, make a significant contribution to improving the spirituality of society, the formation of strong beliefs among young people based on patriotism, as well as the providence of inter-confessional and inter-ethnic tolerance.

It should be noted that the religious policy in Uzbekistan is based on the principles of the secular nature of the state, religious tolerance and equal treatment of all religions. The representatives of various nations and ethnic groups professing Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions carry out their activities in the Republic on the equal terms.

All conditions have been created for the adherents of each confession, allowing them to freely and unhinderedly practice their religion.

Believers freely pray in mosques, churches, synagogues, fast, and also make pilgrimages. Religious organizations have the right to their own territory, publish literature, trainings of their religious ministers, and organizations of pilgrimages to sacred places.

The freedom of religion is guaranteed by the national legislation of Uzbekistan; it has created all the necessary conditions for meeting of the religious needs of all citizens – the representatives of one hundred thirty eight (138) national and ethnic groups.

The representatives of different confessions (faiths) freely celebrate all religious holidays. So, from year to year, there had been celebrated on a larger scale such holidays as Eid al-Adha(Kurban Hayit) and Ramadan (Hayit) Eid-Ul- Fitr among Muslims and: Easter and Christmas – among Christians, the holiday of “Passover,” “Purim” and “Hanukkah” – among Jews, “Navruz” – among Bahais, as well as all type of festivities dedicated to Buddha and Krishna and other big events.

Devout people make a pilgrimage to holy places: for instance, Muslims to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, Christians to Russia, Greece and Israel, Jews- to Israel.

During the years of independence, about 430 thousand of Muslims made a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, including 158 thousand of them, who performed hajj and 272 thousand of them visited “Umra”, more than 2.9 thousand of Christians and Jews visited religious shrines in Israel, Russia, Turkey, Italy, Georgia, Greece.

To satisfy the spiritual needs of a society, a large amount of religious literature of various kinds has been annually published. For full coverage of the religious life of Uzbekistan, a number of newspapers and magazines are published, including the newspapers like “Islom Nuri,” “Word of Life,” the magazines “Khidoyat,” the “East Above”.

Nowadays, a set of measures are being systematically implemented in Uzbekistan to protect the population from the negative impacts of destructive ideas that reflect radical extremist ideology and religious fanaticism.

An important step in this direction was the application of acts of clemency. In particular, since 2017, 24 decrees of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan faced their adoptions on the issues of clemency of people, who had committed the crimes.

It should be noted that in recent years, within the framework of the consistent policy pursued in Uzbekistan in the field of protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens, special attention has been paid to measures aimed at protecting the rights, freedoms, honor and dignity of not only citizens living in the republic, but also our fellow citizens who find themselves in a difficult life situation in foreign countries.

Unfortunately, some of our citizens who fell under the influence of alien ideas, who believed false promises, in different years joined the ranks of international terrorist organizations in zones of armed conflicts abroad. Spouses, fathers of some of the women returned as part of humanitarian operations, died during armed clashes.

Given this circumstance, on behalf of the President of Uzbekistan in 2019¬2021, five Mehr humanitarian actions were successfully carried out, within which more than 500 citizens of the republic, mainly women and children, were returned to their homeland from the zones of armed conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

In order to further assist in their speedy reintegration and rehabilitation at the state level, a set of measures has been implemented for the timely provision of medical, psychological, material and moral assistance. To date, all repatriates have been created the necessary conditions for their adaptation to peaceful life and integration into society, provided access to educational and other social programs, including by providing housing and employment.

The Uzbek authorities are focusing on establishing a constructive dialogue and cooperation with international organizations and experts in the religious field.

During the visits to Uzbekistan of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier, the current state of affairs was discussed, the reforms in our country were highly appreciated, it was noted that Uzbekistan pays special attention to ensuring interethnic harmony and religious tolerance, strengthening friendship between representatives of various nations and nationalities.

Following the visit to Uzbekistan of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief Ahmed Shahid, a separate document was adopted on the implementation of a set of measures in the field of religion.

The Special Rapporteur noted the progress made in simplifying the registration procedures and carrying out the activities of religious organizations, as well as improving the system of religious education in the country.

The UN representative welcomed the interaction of the Uzbek authorities with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and emphasized the interest in promoting reforms in the field of protection of religious freedom in the country.

One more information. In December 2020, the US State Department Excluded Uzbekistan from T.H. “special supervision” to ensure religious freedoms.

It should be noted that in 2018, given the significant improvement in the situation in the field of ensuring religious freedoms, Uzbekistan was excluded from the list of “countries of particular concern”. Since 2006, the Republic has been on this “black list” for 12 years.

The exclusion of Uzbekistan from the “special watch list” is a huge achievement and international recognition for our country.

In general, it is worth noting that an important distinguishing feature of the religious LIFE of Modern Uzbekistan is the inadmissibility of establishing advantages or restrictions for one religion in relation to other confessions.

One of the main priorities in reforming society in order to ensure interethnic harmony and religious tolerance is to ensure and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, their equality before the law, regardless of race, gender, nationality, language, social origin, beliefs, religion, personal and social status, which enshrined in the Constitution of Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan consistently and rigorously fulfills the international obligations of area B to ensure religious freedoms within the framework of international human rights treaties.

As is known, at present Uzbekistan has acceded to more than 70 major international human rights instruments. Accession to these documents contributed to the creation in Uzbekistan of an effective system for the protection of human rights.

It is important that the policy pursued by Uzbekistan in the field of religion, aimed at strengthening interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance in society, is an important factor in stability and security.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the large-scale reforms being implemented in the country ARE a clear confirmation of the consistent continuation by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of the implementation of the principle “Everything for the sake of man, for the sake of his future”.

Committee on Religious Affairs


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