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Uzbekistan Lacks Religious Freedom


Muslims pray at Mosque in Uzbekistan.

Respect for religious freedom continues to decline in Uzbekistan according to the 2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report.

Respect for religious freedom continues to decline in Uzbekistan according to the 2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report. U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner said Uzbekistan remains a country of particular concern along with Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.

The 1998 Uzbek religion law restricts many rights only to registered religious groups and limits which groups may register. Since 1999, no Baptist church has successfully registered, and since 2000, four Baptist churches have lost their registered status. Violators of the law's prohibition on activities such a proselytizing, importing and disseminating religious literature and offering private religious instructions are subject to criminal penalties.

Authorities in Karakalpakstan reportedly ordered Christian books, including the Bible to be destroyed following raids on Christian meetings. In the last year, the Uzbek government has also raided Baha'i services.

In the majority Muslim country of Uzbekistan, the government continues to ban Islamic organizations it considers extremist and criminalizes membership in them. Among the banned organizations are "Akromiya," Tabligh Jamoat, and groups the government broadly labels Wahhabi. In practice Nur, a Turkish Muslim group, is also considered a banned organization.

An estimated 141 members of Nur were convicted during the last year, with sentences ranging from six to 12 years. Three high-profile crimes that occurred in summer 2009 prompted police to arrest hundreds of alleged religious extremists. Although some were arrested in connection with the crimes, many others were arrested solely for membership in banned religious groups. Outside the country, views of Nur's ideology range from progressive to conservative, but the group has consistently condemned violent extremism.

The United States believes religious freedom is a fundamental right that should be respected by all governments, including Uzbekistan. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We want to see religious freedom available universally. And we want to advocate for the brave men and women who around the world persist in practicing their beliefs in the face of hostility and violence."

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