Uzbek govt has launched a training program for imams to facilitate a correct interpretation of Islam that is being sought to be undermined by jihadists

NEW DELHI: Uzbekistan has invited India to join wide-ranging deradicalisation initiatives including training of imams as part of the bilateral counter-terrorism partnership as it is worried over a growing network of the Islamic State (IS) in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The Uzbek government has launched a training programme for imams to facilitate a correct interpretation of Islam that is being sought to be undermined by jihadists. The most populous country in Central Asia has also launched a community (makhallahs or mohallah) support programme aimed at preventing the youth from being misguided by a fundamentalist version of the religion that has lured many young men into joining terrorist groups including the IS.

The government is promoting a school of thought that encourages study of science, art and literature based on the country’s rich history that includes creation of algorithm and first observatory in the northern hemisphere, said Vladimir Norov, director of Tashkent-based Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies, which functions under the aegis of the Uzbek President.

Uzbekistan has invited India to join its deradicalisation initiatives and share best practices, Norov told ET in Tashkent while speaking about the necessity to promote the true essence of the religion worldwide. “The Hanafi school of Islam is prevalent in both Uzbekistan and India, and therefore it is imperative for both countries to join hands to fight extremism. We cannot sidestep growth of the IS in Afghanistan irrespective of the number of Afghans joining IS. It is a challenge for both Uzbekistan and India,” he said.

Norov said that Uzbekistan is a secular and multi-ethnic state where various religions have co-existed for centuries. The mausoleum of the Prophet Daniel, which was built during the time of Amir Temur in Samarkand, is equally revered by those who profess Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The Uzbek government has resolved to establish a Centre for Islamic Culture in Uzbekistan in Tashkent under the slogan ‘Enlightenment against ignorance’, according to Norov, who had earlier served as the country’s foreign minister.

“Special attention is paid to the study of Islam, the rich heritage of our ancestors and the preservation of historical monuments. An international scientific research centre of Imam Bukhari is being created in Samarkand,” said Norov, who also serves as an adviser to the President. Besides, he said, a centre for Islamic civilisation is being established in Tashkent to propagate the correct version of the religion.