Uzbeks without power, Tashkent imam: gas shortage comes from Allah
by Vladimir Rozanskij

He incites the population to accept the situation and submit. Critics: he makes a living smuggling a false religion. For social users, bureaucrats and rulers are to blame for the crisis. Local clergy obey state directives.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A serious energy crisis broke out in Uzbekistan in December. Throughout the country, electricity is rationed for a few hours a day and long queues of motorists are thronging at service stations. Faced with the growing tension among the population, the chief imam of the capital Tashkent, Rakhmatulla Sayfiddinov, who has long been known for his 'scandalous' statements, delivered a solemn speech in which he called on all believers to show gratitude and forbearance.

Sayfiddinov emphasised that 'our ancestors lived without gas and electricity, one must accept the will of Allah'. According to him, local Muslims must not become 'the shame of the world', animatedly raising the issue on all social media. The preacher warned that 'panic, riots and protests will not solve the problems', but these words only caused further upset among the socially active citizens.

Journalist Umid Soriev wrote on his Facebook page that "once again at the most sensitive moment, the campaign for gratitude and patience is being reintroduced, diverting citizens from actions in defence of their rights, and this campaign must be stopped immediately, one must have the courage to express one's discomfort'. In his opinion, the imam 'pushes simple people to live in slavery and subjugation."

Humanitarian activist Musannif Adkham stated in turn that 'blaming people who are shivering in the cold, who spend their nights waiting for their turn at petrol stations and wander in the dark, accusing them of ingratitude and inciting them to endure a situation that seems to have no end, all this is blasphemous, a way of making a living by smuggling a false religion'. The Telegram channel wrote that today "politicians are turning into petulant and bigoted mullahs, while the servants of the cult devote themselves to geopolitics."

Users of social networks respond to Imam Sayfiddinov that it is not the people who should be criticised, but the bureaucrats and rulers who failed to take the necessary measures to prepare for the winter season last summer. The imam, who was appointed to the highest religious dignity in the capital last year, has long been stirring up heated discussions with his controversial lectures on various social issues.

Already in 2018, as imam of the 'MirzaYusuf' cathedral mosque, he had made a plea at Friday prayers to get rid of the 'shameful phenomenon' of male gynaecologists, and had lashed out against the evil influence of Turkey's TV dramas about the genocide of the Uzbeks. During his homily, he had also proclaimed that 'women who during the sexual act with their husbands have fantasies about other men, perhaps handsome actors, will end up producing gay children'.

The grand imam of Tashkent, by the way, is not the only spiritual leader in Uzbekistan to incite the population to submission and gratitude during the energy crisis, but he is in tune with most of his colleagues and brethren, and many believe that these are actually directives distributed by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, together with the Committee for Religion at the Council of Ministers. The Soviet inheritance, characteristic for all Central Asian countries, still considers religion as an 'instrumentum regni', and this also applies to Islam, assimilated more to the 'Byzantine symphony' than to the Mohammedan theocracy, forcing the local clergy to obey state directives.