By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT -- Work is under way on Tashkent's new Centre for Islamic Civilisation, which aims to facilitate the notion of humanism and oppose attempts made by extremists to distort Islamic doctrine, authorities say.
"The centre will conduct scientific research aimed towards studying the humanistic value of Islam," Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan (DUMU) spokesman Khabibullo Kamalov told Caravanserai. "The centre is supposed to unite the entire population together to fight ignorance through education."
Construction of the centre, located in the historical part of Tashkent next to the Khazrati Imam Architectural Complex, is expected to be completed by 2022.
The architectural complex draws pilgrims from all over the world as the Samarkand Kufic Koran (also known as the Uthman Koran) -- believed to be the oldest surviving manuscript of the Koran and stained with the blood of Uthman, the third Caliph -- is kept here, in the Muyi Mubarak Madrasa.
Visitors to the centre will be able to research "works in various spheres like religion, culture, and science produced by our ancestors that are famous throughout the world", Kamalov said, citing works by Imam Muhammad al-Bukhari, Imam al-Tirmidhi, Ulugh Beg, Al-Biruni and Al-Khorezmiy, among others.
"This is excellent news for everyone who reveres Islam," Umid Isroilov of Tashkent told Caravanserai. "I think the centre will bring even more pilgrims to come to our country."
The centre will comprise an academy, library, manuscript archive and meeting facility for 300 people, according to the Office of the President.
Shoazim Minovarov, former head of the French Alliance, a cultural and educational organisation in Uzbekistan, was appointed as the centre's director. Authorities wanted a good manager and diplomat to head the centre, rather than a religious leader.
The new Centre for Islamic Civilisation also will oversee Islamic education in Uzbekistan, including a new Islamic civilisation studies department planned to open at Tashkent Islamic University.
According to the government's plan to develop Islamic education in the country, two Islamic universities and nine Islamic vocational colleges will be placed under the guidance and supervision of the centre.
"In Uzbekistan, parents that are not always literate are frequently the ones involved in giving their children a religious education," said Bakhtier Kamalov of Tashkent.
"The children often think that they profess true Islam, but in fact it is a mix of prejudices, misguided truths from the internet and local traditions," he told Caravanserai. "If the centre gets involved in education [and] works on the internet more [to counter online propaganda], that would be great."
Caravanserai earlier reported how Uzbekistan is expanding the availability and diversity of Islamic higher education to counter propaganda efforts by extremists and terrorists.
"We believe that conveying the genuine, humanistic essence of Islam to the broader worldwide community is an extremely important objective ... The activity performed by the Centre of Islamic Civilisation that we are creating in Tashkent will help us meet that objective," Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said while addressing the UN General Assembly September 19 in New York.