Critics Say Government Repression of Religion Serves to Protect President's Rule

April 17, 2004

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,521069.story?coll=la-news-religion

On April 17, 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported, "The secular Uzbek government keeps mosques under a tight rein, yet underground groups � both nonviolent and armed � that mix fundamentalist Islamic values with radical political goals have been able to grow. Uzbekistan, which helped the United States take down the Taliban regime and its Al Qaeda allies in neighboring Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, characterizes the arrest of thousands of suspected Islamic radicals in recent years as part of a battle against terrorism and to preserve Uzbekistan as a secular society. But critics say the real purpose of the political and religious repression is to protect the personal rule of President Islam Karimov, a former Communist who has run Uzbekistan since 1989, two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Political and religious moderates in Uzbekistan say the government is playing a dangerous game by wiping out the middle ground where traditional Islam and peaceful political opposition could flourish. Offered the choice between a secular dictatorship and a radical religious underground, they say, people who seek only to voice dissent or study religion freely may turn to extremist ideology or armed opposition."