Christian missionaries are “as dangerous as terrorist activities or the illegal drug trade,” Islamic theologians in Uzbekistan declared.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports a new documentary called “In the Clutches of Ignorance,” featuring Uzbek experts, state officials and representatives of Orthodox and Catholic churches in Uzbekistan, claims missionaries pose a serious threat to the Islamic republic.
The Uzbek state film criticized Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Gospel Church and Blagodat (evangelical charity), saying they cause a “global problem, along with religious dogmatism, fundamentalism, terrorism, and drug addiction.”
Jasur Najmiddinov, one of many religious experts interviewed, accused Protestants of being a “political tool” and a “part of geopolitical games,” RFE/RL reported.
“Their center or place of origin traces back to the United States,” Najmiddinov said. “They have even gone so far as meddling in politics. We all know representatives of the Protestant movement played a significant role in the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.”
The Uzbek theologian said missionary activities disrupt society because Uzbek families do not tolerate relatives who convert from Islam.
The May 16 documentary featured clips of people praying and claimed Uzbek Christians, who have turned their backs on Islam, could effortlessly betray their country.
Uzbekistan bans missionary activity, religions that are not registered with the government and printing of faith-based literature without state consent.
Norway’s Forum 18, an organization defending religious freedom, reports intolerance of religion is steadily growing in Uzbekistan as police invade private homes, seize Christian literature, arrest converts and deport missionaries.
The new state documentary warns, Christian missionaries seek out “those with low political awareness and weak-willed young people, as well as minors,” and it said they “get funds abroad” to destabilize Islam.
Although the government says its official stance of “religious toleration” is part of its policy, persecution of a wide variety of religious groups is common in Uzbekistan. Human rights organizations say the government incarcerates Muslims for worshipping outside state institutions and calls them extremists determined to bring down the government.
Uzbek imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov blames the strict government for putting so much pressure on Muslims that it often separates them from Islam, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service reported.
“People are being fired from their jobs or expelled from universities for merely growing a beard or wearing head scarves,” he said. “Some people are even sent to prison. People are afraid of following the most basic Islamic requirements.”
Nazarov claims terrified parents refuse to let their children pray or go to mosques because they fear the government, as it controls all religious activities and even appoints imams.
“It’s like Soviet times,” Nazarov said. “In the Soviet days, we also had mosques and churches everywhere. But in reality, they all operated under the tightest government control.”