Uzbekistan: Ensuring interfaith harmony a key to peace, stability

In the modern world, geopolitical tensions and bloc confrontation are increasing and often escalate into value and ideological conflicts. Inter-confessional harmony is being undermined and social polarization is increasing. As a result of political and economic instability and distorted perceptions of other cultures and faiths, religious violence is escalating in some parts of the world.

In an era of misinformation, when inaccurate information is spread at an incredible speed, this only exacerbates the situation, creating favourable conditions for increasing interfaith mistrust and deepening social and political divisions.

In the context of such instability, maintaining an open and constructive dialogue between different religious and cultural groups becomes a vital resource for maintaining peace and stability. Open and free discussion of interfaith and interethnic disagreements, the search for common paths to cooperation, minimizes the likelihood of confrontation. Only the joint work of representatives of different religions and cultures is the key towards peaceful coexistence in a multicultural world.

Against this backdrop, the United Nations in 2019 decided to designate 22 August as the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief which raises global awareness of religious intolerance, violence and belief-based discrimination. Experts believe that to ensure interfaith harmony and eradicate religious intolerance, it is necessary to establish dialogue between different faiths, as well as encourage mutual understanding and respect.

In this context, it is important to note the experience of Uzbekistan, which is home to representatives of more than 130 nations and 16 confessions, in ensuring inter-confessional harmony in society is considered to be one of the most recognized in the world.

Maintaining the tradition of friendliness and tolerance, Uzbekistan has implemented a number of reforms in this direction in recent years.

Firstly, it is notable that from the first years of independence, it was the state that assumed responsibility for ensuring inter-confessional harmony and maintaining a balance of interests in society. At the same time, today in the country the issues of ensuring effective religious policy have been brought to a new level.

In particular, since 2016, thanks to the political will of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, there has been a fundamental shift in the very essence of the policy in the field of religion and critically analyzed the experience of past years. In the course of the transformation, special emphasis has been placed on education, ensuring religious freedoms, expanding the rights of believers and a new approach to combating extremism.

As a result, the emphasis is currently placed not on forceful methods of solving problems, but on eliminating the causes that determine the spread of extremism and terrorism, as well as on preventive measures.

An important step was the significant strengthening of the legislative basis of state policy in the religious sphere and ensuring freedom of religion. In 2021, the Law of Uzbekistan “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” was adopted in a new edition, during the preparation of which international norms and requirements in this area were carefully studied and taken into account. The law clearly regulates the rights and obligations of citizens, and it also strengthens legal guarantees for ensuring freedom of conscience and religion.

At the same time, the updated version of the Constitution, adopted in 2023, enshrined the principles of secularism and the prohibition of the imposition of any religion. At the same time, the Basic Law laid the foundations of a secular state as the most optimal model for maintaining harmony in society.

Secondly, although more than 95% of the population in Uzbekistan is Muslim, special attention is paid to religious minorities and their integration into society. Equal conditions have been created to satisfy the spiritual needs of representatives of all faiths. Thus, over the past 5 years, more than 100 religious organizations have been registered in the country, of which 20 are non-Islamic. Representatives of various faiths are given ample opportunities to make pilgrimages to holy places: Christians to Russia, Greece and Israel, Jews to Israel.

Thirdly, a feedback mechanism has been established in order to maintain interfaith dialogue in society. The state actively coordinates the establishment of mutual respect between citizens professing different religions and between religious organizations.


Fourthly, special attention is paid to 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. In recent years, the centers of Imam Bukhari, Imam Termizi, Imam Matrudi, as well as the Center for Islamic Civilization have been created in the country.

Fifthly, Uzbekistan has significantly intensified international cooperation in the field of ensuring interreligious harmony and religious tolerance. Thus, the special resolution “Enlightenment and religious tolerance” proposed by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly was unanimously approved by all UN member countries.

Experts and religious figures’ visits are organized on a regular basis in Uzbekistan, within the framework of which international conferences and round tables are held to strengthen interfaith dialogue. In particular, in May 2022, the international forum “Dialogue of Declarations” was held in Bukhara, where about 40 prominent theologians, religious scholars, jurists and government officials from 10 countries, including the USA, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Austria, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria and others took part.

The “Bukhara Declaration”, adopted at the end of the forum, was recognized as an official document of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. This document confirms the importance of the religious factor in the life of modern society and calls on representatives of all religions to promote the development of a culture of tolerance and respect for human dignity.

In general, the experience of Uzbekistan in the field of ensuring interfaith harmony and religious tolerance can, without exaggeration, be studied as an effective example. The way of life of the Uzbek people, which has been formed over the centuries, continues to serve as a solid basis for establishing dialogue between peoples and interfaith tolerance in ensuring the stability of society and the development of the state.

By Bekzod Ochilov

–The writer is a leading researcher at the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies.

By Bekzod Ochilov

–The writer is a leading researcher at the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies.

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