For millennia, Central Asia has been the centre for the encounter and coexistence of different religions. It was religion that was the first nucleus of culture and united countries and continents, regardless of national or ethnic origin. According to the constitution, religious organisations and associations are separate from the state and equal before the law. The state of Uzbekistan does not interfere in the activities of religion and religious associations.
The predominant religion in Uzbekistan is Islam. In terms of religion, overwhelming majority of the population in Uzbekistan is Muslim (about 75% as of 2020, predominantly Sunni of Hanafi-Madhab), the Christians and Jews (Bukhara Jews) form a religious minority. In 1991, the Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations” was passed, which qualitatively changed the role and legal status of religious organisations. In accordance with the law, citizens were granted the right to practise religion individually or in groups, to perform religious rites and rituals, and to make pilgrimages to holy sites.
Religious organisations regained the right to own property, which at the same time gave them the right to acquire the status of a legal entity; they were given the right to own buildings, objects of religious worship, social, industrial and charitable institutions, funds and property. In May 1998, the Oliy Majlis passed a new version of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations, amending the registration and activities of organisations.
As a rule, the leaders of religious organisations can be citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan who have appropriate religious training. Corresponding amendments have also been made to other laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The activities of all mosques are coordinated by the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan, whose head is the Mufti. It oversees two educational institutions – the Spiritual School “Mir Arab” in Bukhara (since 1945) and the Islamic Institute in Tashkent (since 1971) – as well as about 80 mosques. The Spiritual Council has its own publishing house, Movarounnahr, which publishes the magazine Hidayat and the newspaper Islom nuri.
The International Centre for Islamic Studies was founded in Tashkent in 1995 to promote the study of the rich heritage of Islam, the works of Muslim theologians and scholars. In 1999, the Islamic University of Tashkent began its activities in Uzbekistan.
The state supports inter-religious peace and harmony in the country. In 1995, for example, the Christian-Muslim conference “Living Together under One Heaven” was held in Tashkent, attended by representatives of the World Council of Churches and a number of foreign churches.
In 1996, the 125th anniversary of the Eparchial Administration of the Russian Orthodox Church was celebrated. For the first time in the history of the Patriarchate in Central Asia, Patriarch Alexey II of Moscow and all Russia took part in the celebration of this date. In December 1996, the Evangelical Lutheran community in Uzbekistan celebrated the 100th anniversary of the only Lutheran church in Central Asia.
In March 1999, the opening of the church of the Roman Catholic Church in Samarkand took place. The church building was handed over to the community for use in December 1997. Representatives of different denominations take part in the events of the religious organisations.
The Academy for State and Society Building attached to the Presidential Office, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, KITC, the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan, the voluntary organisations Mahalla and Nuroniy and others have been actively involved in promoting harmony and tolerance between the denominations. The representatives of all religious organisations are invited to various meetings, forums and symposia.
According to official data, as of 1 June 2010, 2,225 religious organisations from 16 different denominations were officially registered in Uzbekistan:
- Islam – 2,050 (mosques, religious educational institutions and Islamic centres).
- Christianity – 175, including
- Korean Christians – 52
- Orthodox – 37
- Baptists – 23
- Pentecostals (full gospel) – 21
- Seventh-day Adventists – 10
- Catholics – 5
- Lutherans – 2
- New Apostolic Christians – 4
- Armenian Apostolic Church – 2
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – 1
- Church of the Voice of God – 1
- Interfaith Bible Society – 1
- Judaism – 8
- Baha’i – 6
- Hare Krishna – 1
- Buddhism – 1
The following Christian denominations are officially active in Uzbekistan:
- Russian Orthodox Church (Diocese of Tashkent and Uzbekistan).
- Roman Catholic Church
- Armenian Apostolic Church
- Evangelical Lutheran Church
- Union of Evangelical Baptist Christian Churches
- Centre of Evangelical Christian Churches
There are estimates that there are up to 10,000 Bukhara and Ashkenazi Jews living in Uzbekistan. The Jews are concentrated in the cities of Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand. Over 80 thousand Jews have emigrated to Israel and the USA in the last 20 years, mainly for economic reasons.
The constitution declares freedom of belief for all. According to the constitution, everyone has the right to profess any religion or none. The forced imposition of religious views is also inadmissible.