Uzbekistan Bans Iftar, Kills Fun – Report
This just in from the Uzbek Ministry of No Fun: For the remainder of the holy month of Ramadan, government employees, which in authoritarian Uzbekistan includes not only ministry and law enforcement workers, but also those toiling for government-run banks and medical clinics, shall go straight home after work and not consort with anyone.
So reports the Uzbek service of Radio Free Europe. Apparently, it is not bad enough that Ramadan, which requires Muslims to fast during the day and eat only after sundown, falls this year during the longest days and hottest part of summer in blistering Central Asia. As part of its continued crackdown on religion, the Uzbek government has decided to put the kibosh on the daily ritual celebrating the day’s end known as Iftar, which involves friends and family gathering for food and relaxation. It’s not clear who issued the new rule, but it is leading to some predictable absurdities. According to Radio Ozodliq, via the Russian-language Lenta.ru, for instance, employees of the state-owned Halk Bank have been asked to go straight home after work as per a special decree of the company’s human resources department. Eateries in Tashkent, the report says, have been forbidden from letting the pious break fast on their premises, despite the fact that reservation-takers find it impossible to distinguish those hoping to get a table for Iftar from those simply hoping to stop in for an evening meal.
It’s not the first time authorities have targeted Iftar. In 2010, Uzbekistan banned the breaking of the fast in public amid concerns that the wealthy were using ostentatious celebrations to show off. "Over the past years we have noticed that iftars have become too lavish and pompous like wedding ceremonies mostly held by the wealthy and for the wealthy," Abdulaziz Mansur, deputy chairman of the state-run Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, told AFP at the time.
Lenta also notes that some government employees are being prevented from partaking in Friday prayers this Ramadan.
Since the 1990s, Uzbek President Islam Karimov has assiduously restricted religious expression, including limiting the number of pilgrims headed for Mecca to perform the Hajj; jailing believers on extremism charges; and banning religious literature. Karimov has justified the draconian rules as necessary to defeat terrorism, but rights groups say he’s overreaching and driving the peaceful and pious underground.
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