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Uzbekistan investigates religious organizations

By Shakar Saadi

ICC Note:

“The Uzbek government is stepping up its inspection of religious organizations and demanding that they register,” Central Asia Online reports. While the Russian Orthodox Church is recognized by the government, most Protestants are forced to worship in secret, unregistered house churches. While Protestants try to obey the law by registering, the government often puts the application on hold for months or even years at a time, and in the end, often denies the request.

3/8/2011 Uzbekistan (Central Asia Online) – The Uzbek government is stepping up its inspection of religious organisations and demanding that they register.

The government, which supports traditional religions, aims to counter organisations that might be using religion to achieve political or terrorist aims.

“All religious organisations – whether they have the largest numbers like the Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan and the Russian Orthodox Church or have only a handful of members – have the same rights and obligations,” said Ortikbai Yusupov, chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA).

All legally registered organisations can act freely, but the state is concerned about illegal faiths, he said.

“Registration is required because we have several examples where terrorists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) lure uninformed youth with their propaganda while using other names,” said Timur Abdulhairov of the National Security Service (NSS). “When arrested, they argued that these organisations were not prohibited by law. But first of all, they were front organisations, and second of all, they were not registered.”

“After what happened in Rasht, at Domodedovo and in the Caucasus, we are forced to check all of the unregistered entities,” he said. “Every time we find such an organisation, we tell it to either register or cease its activities. We arrest or question those (that do not register or desist). ”

Religious organisations’ activities also fall under the 1998 Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations, which prohibits missionary activities, human rights activist Kamol Bakirzoda said.

Worshippers leave a Sunday service at the Central Orthodox Cathedral in Tashkent. All registered religious organisations operate freely, the Uzbek government says. [Shakar Saadi]

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