KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 30 August 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist and
post-communist lands.
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UZBEKISTAN: ELDERLY MUSLIMS SUFFER AS KOKAND MOSQUE
CLOSES. The mainly elderly Muslims who attended a small unregistered
mosque in the town of Kokand have been categorically forbidden to
assemble there until it has been registered with the town�s administrative
authorities. An imam at the Chankatalik mosque told Keston News Service
that it was difficult for the old people either to get to the town�s central
mosque or to register their local mosque. An official of the town
administration, however, told Keston that Kokand has enough mosques
without this one.

UZBEKISTAN: ELDERLY MUSLIMS SUFFER AS KOKAND MOSQUE
CLOSES

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

The mainly elderly Muslims who attended a small unregistered mosque in
the town of Kokand in the Uzbek part of the Fergana valley have been
categorically forbidden to assemble there until it has been registered with the
town�s administrative authorities. An imam at the Chankatalik mosque said
old age made it physically difficult for many of those who had attended to
get to the town�s central mosque and he doubted whether the congregation
had enough energy or financial resources to register their local mosque.
However, one official of the town administration told Keston News Service
that there is no need for the mosque, as Kokand already has enough other
mosques.

On 2 June, officials of the police and National Security Ministry (the ex-
KGB) unexpectedly raided the Chankatalik mosque in Kokand, some 100
kilometres (60 miles) west of the regional centre Fergana, citing the fact that
it had not been registered and warning those present not to meet there again.

The deputy imam-khatyb of the Chankatalik mosque, Ubaidullo Valizhanov,
described it as a �relatively small� mosque attended by about 30 Muslims,
mostly elderly men from the neighbourhood. �Our mosque can�t really be
called a house of prayer in the strict sense of the word,� he told Keston on 17
August. �On Fridays we go to pray at Kokand�s central mosque. On other
days, we used to come together at Chankatalik: we prayed together and
discussed the Koran. For us - as men advanced in years - it�s physically quite
difficult to get to the central mosque, but we could go to Chankatalik every
day. So Chankatalik could also be considered a religious club for the old
men of our neighbourhood.�

Valizhanov is sceptical about the possibility of registering the mosque. To
begin with, this requires payment of a fee to the town hakimiat
(administrative authorities) of 192,000 sums (about 190 US dollars or 135
pounds sterling), a very large sum of money for the elderly, who receive an
average monthly pension of less than 10,000 sums. Secondly, Valizhanov
added, registration of a mosque is a cumbersome bureaucratic procedure,
and the elderly men do not have the energy to get through it.

Rasul Ilkhomov, head of the religious affairs department at the Kokand
hakimiat, sees no need for the Chankatalik mosque to continue functioning.
�There are already 10 mosques registered in our town,� he told Keston by
telephone on 17 August, �and that number is quite sufficient.�

According to Uzbekistan�s religion law, �religious organisations have the
status of juridical persons and can carry on their activities after their
registration at the Ministry of Justice or local government institutions, in the
manner laid down by law�. However, as the chief specialist of the
Committee for Religious Affairs in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Begzot
Kadyrov, told Keston by telephone, �A prayer-house must be registered in
order to receive the status of juridical person. It could be regarded as
violation of the law if the congregation of an unregistered house of prayer
has its own leader, who preaches sermons. If people merely come together
for religious discussions and prayer, there�s nothing criminal in it.�

However, Valizhanov told Keston that the members of the Chankatalik
mosque�s congregation continue to be forbidden to assemble at the
unregistered mosque, contrary to the religion law. (END)