Shuhrat Ghaniev apologized after denigrating the external symbols of the Islamic religion. Since 1998, an Uzbek law prohibits Muslim women from wearing clothes that cover their heads in public, except for religious ceremonies. Fundamentalism used as a "pretext" to suppress dissent.
Tashkent (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Uzbekistan Senate has sentenced the governor of the Ferghana region to three months probation. Last week, Shuhrat Ghaniev drew the outrage of public opinion and politics with some comments considered offensive to the Islamic religion against long beards and the veil.
During a rally in his region, Ghaniev issued a warning to the district administrators. ""Remember this, dear governors: if I see a woman in such clothing in your official meetings -- I don't care if she's a neighborhood chief, a teacher, a businesswoman, an activist, a lawmaker -- I'll remove her head scarf and shove it in your mouth," he stated.
As for the long male beards, an outward sign of men of Muslim faith, he called them "unpleasant" and inciting Islamic extremism.
Ghaniev made a public apology in order to avoid the restrictive measure imposed by the parliamentary branch of which he is a member. The politician is known for his often exaggerated and colorful declarations, even rriving at calling his rival colleagues "stupid".
The eastern region of Ferghana is among the most populated areas of the former Soviet Republic, with about 3.6 million inhabitants. However, in the country the authorities have long imposed a strict policy of controlling the outward manifestations of religion, limiting the use of the hijab in schools and offices. Since 1998, a law prohibits Muslim women from wearing clothes that cover their heads in public, except for religious ceremonies.
In all the countries of Central Asia the danger of a fundamentalist drift of the new generations is felt as a matter of the utmost urgency on the part of the authorities. This is why governments limit the number of departures for pilgrimages to Mecca, carry out arbitrary detentions of alleged extremists who often confess under torture. However, experts point to the risk that Islamic terrorism is used as a "pretext" by governments to suppress internal dissent.