For Solijon, the devout Muslim owner of a small restaurant in Andijan, Uzbekistan, this year’s Ramadan is memorable. Unlike previous years, officials have not forced him to sell alcohol and report on his pious guests during the holy month.
Uzbek authorities have long viewed religious rites with suspicion, fearing they lead to a rise in piety, which many officials equate with extremism. Authorities have, in the past, banned Ramadan-related festivities and strictly monitored mosques. In Andijan, authorities even forced local shops and restaurants to sell alcohol, which is forbidden for practicing Muslims. Solijon and his religious friends are praising the changes, though they suspect the apparent relaxations of central control over faith are temporary and do not signal the end of Uzbekistan’s notoriously restrictive approach to religion.
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