Uzbekistan rallies Islamic states against extremists

By Maksim Yeniseyev

Participants listen to a speaker during the OIC foreign ministers' summit in Tashkent October 18 in Tashkent. [OIC photo obtained by Maksim Yeniseyev]

Participants listen to a speaker during the OIC foreign ministers' summit in Tashkent October 18 in Tashkent. [OIC photo obtained by Maksim Yeniseyev]

TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan recently hosted a major gathering of Islamic countries' leaders who denounced extremism and terrorism.

The 57-country Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC)'s Council of Foreign Ministers held its 43rd conference October 18-20 in Tashkent.

Uzbekistan took over the rotating chairmanship of the council on October 20. The assembled diplomats and representatives of the EU, UN and other international organisations discussed "Education and Enlightenment -- the Path to Peace and Creativity".

Uzbekistani acting President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke at the forum to denounce those who equate Islam with bloodbaths.

"It is a big honour to us to undertake the functions of a chairing country in the OIC CFM [Council of Foreign Ministers]," Uzbekistani Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said during the conference, according to the Foreign Ministry press office. "We consider it as an opportunity to make our own contribution to the development of the Organisation and resolution of important tasks before it."

Uzbekistan is basking in international recognition of its leadership in Islamic matters, Khabibullo Kamalov, spokesman for the Administration for Muslims of Uzbekistan, told Caravanserai. "On October 6 the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre [of Jordan] ranked Uzbekistani Grand Mufti Usmonkhon Alimov the 138th most influential Muslim in the world."

Promoting education and fighting ignorance

During the foreign ministers' summit, the main issue was ensuring peace and security through education and promotion of Islamic knowledge.

"We strongly condemn the persons who are exploiting the religion of Islam for the purposes of violence and bloodshed, and we will never come to terms with them," Mirziyoyev said in his own speech to the OIC diplomats October 18, according to the Uzbekistani Foreign Ministry. "We highly value that our Organization is carrying out its activity with deep comprehension that it is impossible to achieve stability and security without tackling the economic and social problems."

Mirziyoyev additionally urged his listeners to ensure the OIC's "solidarity" in fighting "militants, terrorism and extremism".

The diplomats, after the session, signed 118 resolutions and issued the Tashkent Declaration on fighting terrorism and extremism.

"We highly appreciate the comprehensive efforts to combat radicalisation and extremism using the true values of Islam and establishment of a broad educational process, including in the religious sphere," the declaration said, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Making Samarkand a centre of scholarship

Uzbekistan is advocating hosting an Islamic research centre in Samarkand, as Mirziyoyev noted in his speech. Samarkand is ideal to accommodate such a think tank because it represents a "pearl of Islamic culture" and contains the grave of noted Muslim thinker Imam Bukhari, he said.

"Uzbekistan was the only Soviet republic to have an operating Muslim university," Kamalov told Caravanserai in explaining Uzbekistan's case for serving as a centre of Islamic scholarship and referring to the Tashkent Islamic Institute named after Imam al-Bukhari. "In 1999, the first Islamic university in Central Asia [Tashkent Islamic University] was founded here."

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