The capital of Uzbekistan has for the first time in more than a decade begun ringing to the sound of the call to prayer.
The last time the Kukcha mosque in Tashkent blared the summons over its loudspeakers was back in 2005.
Karim Burkhanov, a journalist who lives near the mosque, told EurasiaNet.org that he heard the first azan early in the morning of November 5. For believers, this is a landmark event.
According to Uzbek-language news website azon.uz, the first call to prayer over loudspeaker was heard on November 1 from Tashkent’s Minor mosque. The same even has been reported in the cities of Andijan and Ferghana.
Talk of resuming the practice had come up at a meeting of the parastatal Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Uzbekistan on October 26 that was attended by imams from all over the country. Proponents of permitting the summons over loudspeakers have argued that it would help reduce sinfulness.
Another prominent cleric, Abdulaziz Mansur, has said that religious authorities have also been petitioned to sanction the wearing of Islamic headdress by women and reintroduce religious education in the state curriculum.
The call to prayer was forbidden in 2005, following the violent unrest in Andijan, which was pinned by the government on Islamic extremists.
The ascendancy of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has been characterized by a marked loosening of restrictions on the activities of pious Muslims. The quota for people wishing to perform the hajj to Mecca was raised this year, from 5,200 to 7,200. That figure will increase again to 10,000 next year.
In another, even more momentous, development, 16,000 people included on a blacklist of suspect citizens — usually defined as those associating with banned religious groups — were rehabilitated this year.
The return of the azan has set social media alight, with commenters split in their views.
“It is great, the azan is an integral part of our history. This way we will not forget it, I love this president,” gushed one Facebook user, Leila Urtenova.
Others, however, are anxious that religion appears once again to be taking a central place in Uzbek life.
“I am not against the call to prayer, but I am not inspired by the rest. We’re not sliding into an Islamic state this way, are we?” Gulya Kadyrova-Mavlyanova said, responding to Urtenova’s post.