Tashkent, January 15, Interfax - United States Department of State's inclusion of Uzbekistan in the list of countries where violations of freedom of religion occur is based on biased information and old stereotypes, the Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan said.
The State Department announced on January 4 that Uzbekistan is among the countries where "egregious violations of religious freedom" occur.
"The U.S. Department of State report on Uzbekistan is definitely based on biased information, and it contradicts the real situation," the Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan said in a statement released on Monday.
Serious changes occurred in Uzbekistan's religious affairs in 2017, the statement said. "A lot of work was done to resolve the accumulated problems. The president did a lot of work to maintain Islamic values, promote religious education, and spread our religion," the directorate said.
The Center for Islamic Civilizations and international research centers named after Imam Buhari and Imam Tirmidhi were created in the country, the directorate said. The number of Islamic educational establishments reached 11. A higher religious school was created in Bukhara. A three-year special extramural department was opened at the Tashkent Islamic Institute, Koran study groups formed, and the quotas for Muslim educational establishments were increased by 150%.
According to the Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan, 55 mosques were renovated, and 15 new mosques were built. The hadj pilgrim quota was increased from 5,200 to 7,200, and the quota for umrah (small pilgrimage) was increased from 6,000 to 10,000.
On the president's initiative, over 16,000 people were removed from lists of members of various marginal religious groups in 2017, the directorate said.
"Much was done to study the problems and goals of these citizens, to prevent discrimination against them, to provide them with comprehensive support and help them return to life in society," it said.
According to official information, 94% of Uzbekistan's population is Muslim, 3.5% of its citizens are Orthodox Christians, and the rest belong to other religions.
Over 2,220 religious organizations of 16 religions are registered in the country, including more than 2,000 Muslim and 157 Christian organizations, eight Jewish communities, six Bahai communities, a Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Buddhist temple, and an interreligious Bible Society.