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Uzbekistan teaches students about religious extremism
Police, religious authorities and schools explore new methods to warn children against false prophets and the dangers of extremism.
By Maksim Yeniseyev
TASHKENT – As Uzbekistan celebrates Kurban Hajit (Eid ul Adha) and other festivals this season, spiritual leaders and law enforcers have combined efforts to inform students across the country about the threats of religious extremism.
That is what led a special team from the Spirituality and Education Centre to visit pupils at School No. 6 in Fergana Oblast, which has the highest number of practicing Muslims in Uzbekistan – to warn them of “the aims of extremists and how they use religion for 'evil ends,'” centre spokesman Rasul Khusnutdinov told Central Asia Online.
“The imam of the local mosque … gave a lecture on the true meaning of religion and of religious movements in Islam,” he said. “The imam stressed that everyone who wants to obtain a religious education can do so in the educational establishments and that self-proclaimed ‘preachers’ should be avoided.”
The Spirituality and Education Centre took root in Uzbekistan in 2011 from a government resolution aimed at propagating a healthy way of life among youth and at protecting them from harmful acts, reactionary ideologies and extremism. The centre has branches working in every oblast in the country.
In Tashkent School No. 86, teachers are using innovative methods to reach the students in a course on the history of religion, which teaches about traditional religions.
“I try through games and other accessible methods to inculcate in them the basics of mutual respect between members of different ethnic groups and religions,” teacher Gulirano Khalikova told Central Asia Online. “For the older children, ... we organise meetings with law enforcement officials.”
Learning from police
Sixth-grader Server Yulchiyev was excited to tell Central Asia Online about what he had learned.
“The police came to our school last week,” he said. “They told us not to take books or brochures of any kind from people we do not know, and if we meet such people, to report them by calling 02 (the emergency line).”
At School No. 104 in Tashkent, officials organised a Family, Mahalla (Neighbourhood Association) and School Centre that includes teachers, parents, pupils and law enforcement, teacher Svetlana Radzhabova told Central Asia Online.
The school offers various clubs, including the Centre for Combating Religious Extremism and Terrorism. The clubs have their own methods for informing and teaching pupils and often receive religious dignitaries from local mosques and police officers, she added.
As extremists keep on thinking up new ways to entice children, law enforcement authorities remain unflaggingly vigilant in the fight to counter extremism, Samvel Petrosyan, MVD spokesman, said.
“As you know, practically every child has a mobile phone these days,” he said. “The extremists text their propaganda to the children’s phones, taking advantage of their trusting nature. It has been noted recently that the extremists often use people who fix or set up mobile phones at markets for this sort of activity.”
“Police inspectors carry out periodic preventive raids against those (small) businesses,” he said. “In particular, in Namangan this month, a stop was put to the activities of several ‘businessmen,’ on whose computers pornographic, religious and extremist videos and photos were found.”
In an effort to keep improving methods of countering religious extremism, clergy are holding special seminars to exchange knowledge and experiences on how to convey the ideas of Islam to children correctly.
One such seminar, titled “Peace and Calm are a Priceless Gift,” took place at Tashkent Islamic University October 4, Committee for Religious Affairs spokesman Shavkat Khamdamov said.
“At this seminar, leaders of the Muslim Association recommended the imams to step up their work with the population and to inform their congregations of the threats to the preservation of peace and stability in the country,” he said.