| Religion

Uzbekistani leaders launch multi-faith effort against extremism

By Maksim Yeniseyev


Leaders of various faiths in Uzbekistan applaud a speaker at a November 16 Tashkent conference on tolerance. [Maksim Yeniseyev]

Leaders of various faiths in Uzbekistan applaud a speaker at a November 16 Tashkent conference on tolerance. [Maksim Yeniseyev]

TASHKENT -- Members of various faiths are joining forces in Uzbekistan in an effort to continue building a multicultural society and condemn the use of religion by extremists as an instrument to achieve their goals.

A November 16 forum at Tashkent Islamic University, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Uzbekistani government's Committee for Religious Affairs (KDR), brought together religious leaders, foreign scholars, diplomats and community leaders, according to KDR spokesman Shavkat Khamdamov.

The event, "Inter-faith dialogue and religious tolerance are the guarantor of social stability," annually commemorates the International Day for Tolerance.

"The speakers discussed Uzbekistan's experience in building a tolerant society in Uzbekistan and noted that it could serve as a model for other countries," Khamdamov told Caravanserai. "The attendees condemned using religion as a means to incite hatred and called for a united stand against religious extremists."

"We need to bolster our efforts to explain to the public and, especially to youth, the norms of [moderate] Islam," Usmonkhon Alimov, the mufti of Uzbekistan, said at the conference, according to Novosti Uzbekistana.

At last year's version of the same conference, German churchman Wolfgang Nadolny and Tashkent-based Russian Orthodox cleric Sergii Statsenko expressed their commitment to inter-faith tolerance.

To back up Alimov's statement, the KDR held a conference on November 23 in Tashkent on "Religious tolerance is a factor for peace and stability". Attendees included undergraduates from Islamic and Christian institutions in Tashkent.

"College students gave reports on various topics, such as developing spiritual immunity against ... extremism and terrorism," Khamdamov said of the conference.

Prizing diversity

Uzbekistan's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom is "diametrically opposed to the dogmas of extremists", Sanjar Ganiyev, a religious studies instructor at the National University of Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai.

The diverse country has 130 ethnic groups and 16 known faiths, according to the government, and officials have expressed hope that their country will continue its 25-year-long streak of no major inter-faith or inter-ethnic clashes.

"Strengthening inter-faith accord and friendship ... remains one of our priority policies," then-acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in October in Tashkent, according to Uzbekistan Today. "For centuries, religious tolerance has been an integral part of our mentality."

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan continues to prosecute extremists who are trying to dupe the young and impressionable.

Caravanserai earlier reported the shutdown of an illegal school for girls in May 2015 in Chirchik, Tashkent Province. The school's leader, Umida Kadyrmova, had ties to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) and was preparing to send the girls to Syria.

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