Friday July 19, 2024

Uzbekistan’s model of interfaith harmony inspiration for other nations: envoy

By Jamila Achakzai
June 07, 2024
Uzbek Ambassador to Pakistan Aybek Arif Usmanov seen in this image. — APP/File
Uzbek Ambassador to Pakistan Aybek Arif Usmanov seen in this image. — APP/File

Islamabad:Uzbekistan's approach to fostering social cohesion and interfaith harmony, as a country of over 130 nationalities and 16 religious confessions, is acknowledged worldwide as one of the most successful models, showcasing its exceptional expertise in promoting peaceful coexistence among diverse communities, insists Uzbek Ambassador to Pakistan Aybek Arif Usmanov.

"For centuries, people of various faiths have harmoniously lived together in our country, exemplifying a legacy of mutual respect and cooperation. Our forefathers have consistently demonstrated tolerance and collaboration with individuals from different religious backgrounds, working together for the nation's prosperity. Notably, our history is devoid of any case of religious-based conflicts or clashes, demonstrating a remarkable tradition of peaceful coexistence," Mr Usmanov told 'The News' on Thursday.

The ambassador said the political will of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had led to a fundamental shift in the very essence of the policy in the field of religion since 2016. He added that during that transformation process, Uzbekistan had given priority to education, safeguarding religious freedoms, enhancing believers' rights, and adopting a new approach to countering extremism. "The focus has shifted from forceful solutions to eliminating the root causes of religious extremism and terrorism, and adopting preventive measures against their spread," he said.

Mr Usmanov said a crucial move was the strengthening of the legislative framework governing the state's policy on religious matters to protect freedom of religion. He said his country enacted a law in 2021 to regulate the rights and obligations of citizens and strengthen legal guarantees for ensuring freedom of conscience and religion.

"We updated the Constitution in 2023 to enshrine the principles of secularism and the prohibition of the imposition of any religion," he said, adding that the country's Basic Law laid the foundations of a secular state as the most optimal model for maintaining harmony in society. The envoy said although Muslims made up more than 95 percent of Uzbekistan's population, special attention was paid to religious minorities and their integration into society.

"Over the last five years, we've registered more than 100 religious organisations in the country with 20 being non-Muslim. We also provide representatives of various faiths ample opportunities to make pilgrimages to their holy places like Christians to Russia, Greece and Israel, and Jews to Israel. They are given comprehensive assistance, medical services, and fast processing of visa documents," he said. Mr Usmanov said the Uzbek government had introduced a "feedback mechanism" to maintain interfaith dialogue in society.

"We have created the Council for Religious Affairs to ensure tolerant interaction between religious organisations, assist them in carrying out their activities, and jointly develop proposals and measures to ensure inter-religious cooperation," he said. The ambassador also said Uzbekistan had paid special attention to the promotion of Islamic education and science, as well as the study and dissemination of humanistic and peace-loving principles, ideas of tolerance of the religion of Islam.

He said in recent years, the centres of Imam Bukhari, Imam Termizi, Imam Matrudi, as well as the Centre for Islamic Civilisation were created to carry out an in-depth study of the rich and multifaceted heritage of the great ancestors of the Uzbek people, who made a tremendous contribution to the development of Islamic culture and human civilisation. Mr Usmanov said Uzbekistan had significantly intensified international cooperation in the sphere of interfaith harmony and tolerance. He added that the special resolution on “Enlightenment and religious tolerance” by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly was unanimously approved by all UN member countries. "Our [Uzbekistan] model of interfaith harmony and religious tolerance serves as a shining example, worthy of emulation. The way of life of the Uzbek people, which has been formed over the centuries, continues to provide a solid basis for establishing dialogue between peoples and interfaith tolerance to ensure the stability of society and the development of the state," he said.