24 November 2006, 11:21
Uzbek authorities criticize inclusion in US religion blacklist
Tashkent, November 24, Interfax - The U.S. Department of State's decision to add Uzbekistan to the U.S. list of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious freedoms is an instance of interference in Uzbekistan's internal affairs, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
"The inclusion of Uzbekistan by the U.S. Department of State in the so-called list of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious freedoms has caused surprise in our country's society, to say the least," the ministry said.
"This step has once again demonstrated the U.S. foreign policy agency's unilateral approach and double standards toward key issues such as freedom of religion and church membership," it said.
Latitude in religion and tolerance have always been a crucial component of the country's national policy, the ministry said. "Representatives of 18 religions, among them Muslims, Orthodox, Catholics and Jews, live in accord and freely practice their religion in Uzbekistan largely thanks to it. No confrontations between religious groups or conflicts between religious groups themselves and the authorities have been reported in the country in recent years," it said.
All recent UN-sponsored major international conferences, workshops and meetings have given special attention and supported Uzbekistan's experience in promoting mutual understanding and respect between various religious communities, the ministry said.
"The republic of Uzbekistan has always taken an uncompromising and consistence position regarding groundless claims by individual politicians, statesmen and media outlets that are clearly provocative and can disturb mutual understanding between religions," the ministry said.
"It primarily concerns situations where international terrorism is associated with Islam, which is sacred for all Muslims, and where Western newspapers use "freedom of speech" slogans to circulate assessments that insult the honor, national dignity and feelings of hundred million religious Muslims," it said.
"Uzbekistan has invariably denounced such actions. It can be confirmed by Uzbekistan's condemnation of the publication of caricatures satirizing the Prophet Muhammad and Pope Benedict XVI's irresponsible remarks concerning Islam," the ministry said.
Uzbekistan is one of the recognized centers of Islamic culture and philosophy, it said.
"We have every reason to firmly state that all the necessary conditions for representatives of all traditional religions have been established in our country and are guaranteed by the constitution," it said.
Commenting on the activities of various missionary religious movements and sects in Uzbekistan, the ministry said that, as far as this problem is concerned, the Uzbek authorities are governed by the country's law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, which was adopted in the republic during the first years of its independence.
"The Uzbek authorities consider the decision of the U.S. Department of State to include the republic on the so-called list of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious freedoms as unfounded and nothing other than an instance of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign Uzbekistan," the ministry said.