NEW UZBEK LAW ON RELIGION CLARIFIED.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 96

An ethnic Russian deputy to the Uzbek parliament has made public the full provisions of the law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations,” adopted on May 1 and known only incompletely until now (see the Monitor, May 5). Replacing a perestroika-era law, the new law is supposed to combat “Islamic fundamentalism.”

Under this law, “the free exercise of religious and other convictions is subject to limitations required by national security.” It bans all missionary activities; precludes the formation of parties “and public movements” along religious lines; and forbids the “use of religion for anti-state propaganda, for spreading slanderous or destabilizing fabrications, and for sowing panic among the population.” It also prohibits the teaching of religion in public schools.

The law further obligates religious associations to “exclude fanaticism and extremism.” It requires all religious associations to apply for “registration” with the state and stipulates a minimum of 100 members for registration, instead of the ten members required by the previous law. This latter provision would seem automatically to ban religious groups with less than 100 members. (Russian agencies, May 15)

While applying to all denominations, the law is intended primarily to affect the exercise of the Muslim religion. It recalls in certain respects the Soviet state’s attitudes toward Islam. Some of the stipulations give the authorities ample leeway for restrictive and repressive measures. The law seems in many ways designed to contain religious life as such, rather than just “fundamentalism.”–VS

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