Almost Impossibly, Uzbekistan Moves Backward on Religious Liberty

A few stories should suffice to show that Uzbekistan’s hope for a brighter future appears to be on a permanent delay.

A Christian woman was sentenced to corrective labor for owning religious literature.

Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan, has been sentenced to one and a half years of corrective labor for the “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature,” according to Forum 18 News Service.

Allamova’s conviction under Article 244-3 of the Criminal Code follows two separate raids on her home in January. Judge Makhmud Makhmudov — who also handed down the corrective labor sentence — ordered all religious materials seized during the raids to be confiscated.

Religious literature in Uzbekistan is under such strict state control that even owning small quantities of it can lead to charges of storage for use in “missionary activity” which, not surprisingly, is also illegal in Uzbekistan.

The state-appointed Grand Mufti, Usmonkhon Alimov, is widely believed to be a member of the secret police.

The Chief Mufti has continued to praise the president in his books as well. For example, in his book “Sacred covenants of the Prophet” published in Tashkent in 2011, Usmon Alimov writes,

“Remember the words of the president during his meeting with imams: You, imams, should keep watch and protect the independence of the country for the benefit of our people.”

Mufti Alimov was particularly active after the events of the Arab Spring in 2010, when the long-lasting dictators of Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon were removed by popular uprisings.

He held a seminar with country’s imams entitled “Peace is a priceless gift” at the Islamic University in Tashkent. Topics like spirituality and morality, interfaith and intercultural tolerance, and reasons for popular uprising events that led to the Arab Spring were discussed as part of the seminar.

When greeting the seminar’s participants, the mufti addressed the urgent nature for the seminar. He tasked its participants with bringing timely information to the country about the events taking place abroad. He particularly noted the need to inform the populace to maintain peace and stability in the Republic.

Uzbekistan is a terrible place, and will remain so until Islam Karimov is long dead. For the sake of the people of Uzbekistan, let us hope that day comes sooner than later.

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