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  • » 04/28/2014, 00.00


    Under pressure from imams, Christians cannot be buried in state-owned cemeteries

    In recent weeks, three cases have raised the issue of religious freedom in the Asian country. Muslim religious leaders have banned burials because non-Muslims "cannot be buried with Muslims." The authorities have ignored protests of relatives, who say that Uzbekistan is a secular state.

    Tashkent (AsiaNews/Forum18) - With the support of local authorities, some Uzbek imams have denied the families of non-Muslims the right to bury their loved ones in state-owned cemeteries.

    Three cases involving Protestants have been reported in recent weeks, raising questions about religious freedom in Uzbekistan, this according to the Forum 18, a news service that documents violations of religious freedom in Central Asia.

    The three people involved are all former Muslims who converted to Protestant Christianity. In each case, their families were not allowed to bury them alongside other relatives.

    In Central Asian culture, being buried together with family members and with the participation of the local community are important.

    Although Forum 18 reported the first case only a few days ago, the latter dates back to 9 April. It concerns Gayrat Buriyev, 68-year-old Christian, originally from a village near the capital Tashkent.

    The local imam refused to let his relatives bury him in the state-owned cemetery, repeatedly cursing the deceased's family. When the latter appealed to local government authorities, they were unsuccessful.

    The ban stems from the deceased's conversion to Christianity. Cemeteries are state-owned, but converts cannot be buried along with Muslims, the imam said.

    "The imam cursed the family for becoming Christians and insulted them with unquotable expressions, branding them unclean and defiled infidels," local sources said, adding that he was "acting based on Islamic Sharia Law".

    Complaints by relatives were to no avail. Although they insisted that Uzbekistan is (or ought to be) a secular state and cemeteries are state-owned, the local imam, claimed that the one in question was "a Muslim cemetery" and Christians are not allowed.

    Two similar cases were reported in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region in north-western Uzbekistan.

    Local officials forced the families of two Protestant women who died in February to bury them in a Russian Orthodox cemetery, after the local imam banned them from the state-owned cemetery.

    The local Muslim leader, who was instrumental in this case as well, said, "Those who accepted other religions may not be buried in the same cemetery with Muslims."

    In a country where about 88 per cent of the population is Sunni Muslim with 8 per cent Christians, religious freedom is under tight government controls.

    Although only the possession of religious literature that is extremist in nature and incites "religious hatred" is deemed illegal, the judiciary often destroys material seized in homes after receiving "opinion" from "experts" for whom any book about religion is extremist.

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    See also

    23/02/2007 UZBEKISTAN
    Five years jail for those who convert Muslims to Christianity.
    Forum 18 said this was the reason behind the arrest of a Protestant pastor called Shestakov, who has been detained for more than a month awaiting trial for “inciting religious hatred” and more crimes. Another pastor was arrested for being found with religious texts in his possession as have many believers because they were holding meeting in homes.

    20/09/2004 UZBEKISTAN
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    Prison for clerics but some in the West prefer to think about oil
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    12/02/2010 UZBEKISTAN
    Baptist falsely accused of selling drugs
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    Uzbek government limits permits for Mecca pilgrimage
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