Uzbekistan: Iftar Banned in Mosques and Restaurants

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For the first time in Uzbekistan’s post-Soviet history, the customary of breaking fast at sundown during the Ramadan period is being banned from mosques and restaurants.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service reported this week that the ban was introduced not by the government itself, however, but by the state-run Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan.

Accordingly, the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Uzbekistan is inviting people to invite small groups of people home instead of gathering in large groups in public places. “In Mecca people perform iftar because people (pilgrims) do not have their own home there. Our citizens have their own home. They should have iftar at their place, within their family circle,” Mansur said.

The holy month of Ramadan began this year on June 6.

This period is typically a considerable money-spinner for cafes and restaurants in the old part of the capital, Tashkent, which would put on special menus to celebrate the daily breaking of the fast. This ban ultimately affects mostly big cities, since people in smaller towns and villages do not typically celebrate iftar in restaurants anyhow.

Some say that this decision (on banning iftar) was probably adopted because concerns over security before the SCO summit. The gradual clampdown on iftar has been in motion for a number of years. In 2013, it was reported that government workers were being instructed to go straight home after work during Ramadan and not consort with anyone.

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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