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Uzbek Senator Safoyev: Stagnation and repression leads to instability

Uzbek Senator Sodiq Safoyev: Stagnation and repression leads to instability
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Discussion about religious freedom in Uzbekistan at the National Press Club, Washington DC, 25 July, 2018.

Senator Sodiq Safoyev: Good morning. I am also happy to be back to the National Press Club. Last time, we met during this historic visit of President Mirziyoyev, and it creates some momentum for our bilateral relationship. Just as it has been said by Mr.Kamilov, Uzbekistan is gaining momentum for rapid transformation which means political and economic modernization. Of course, the issues of religious freedom, freedom of conscience is one of the most important item and factor of the transformation in Uzbekistan.

I'd like just to draw your attention to the general context why this process of modernization including religious freedom is unfolding in Uzbekistan.

First of all, the main driving force behind this aspiration is the clear understanding of the following fundamental factor. In order to address challenges of contemporary world; strength and security, confront radical Islam, political Islam and terrorism, political and economic reforms. Modernization must be accelerated, not reversed.

As the recent development in many regions; Middle East, post-Soviet area, have demonstrated, the non-modernized states are weak and vulnerable. Frankly, I don't buy the idea stating that all kind of the color revolutions, Arab springs were orchestrated from abroad, no. The point is that, those events occurred in the stagnating for long decades corrupt, repressive, frail societies. Their problem came not from foreign NGOs or Facebook, they were rooted in deteriorating social and economic situation in justice, violation of human rights and freedoms, rise of unemployment, and the polarization of the population by income. This inevitably led to the growth of opposition including the upsurge of political Islam.

An obsolete and imbalanced non-modernized government or system just failed to tackle the mounting discontent. Full understanding that, new leadership of Uzbekistan, President Mirziyoyev, launched comprehensive five-year modernization strategy of actions, and modernization of the policy in regard to the religious freedom is a part of this process.

Now it's clear that you cannot confront political Islam, radicalism only by repressive measures. You should fight for hearts and minds of the people. You should change your judicial system, guarantee the human rights and freedom, and education. Enlightenment is the best way, according to the new approach, to confronting the political Islam.

This special roadmap was adopted by two chambers of parliament, I am sure that Dr. Saidov and Minister Davletov brief you on the details of this roadmap. However, concluding my remarks, initial remarks, I wouldn't simplify the situation. We have many challenges ahead, many conflicts should be addressed. For instance, coexistent of secular democracy and the growth of Islam. Might it be possible to be in harmony, or second, modernization, which means liberalization and more democracy and the need to contaminate the political Islam. To what extent we might be tolerant to intolerance? To what extent liberalism and democracy might be applied to the mortal enemies of the liberalism and democracy?

This is a question which I don't have an answer, and we should explore all together. I'll be happy to answer to your questions, thank you very much.

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