SHAFAQNA -Â Claiming that children minds should not be distracted by religion, Uzbekistan pro-Russia government has banned children from attending regular Friday and `Eid prayer in mosques, in the latest violation of their religious rights.
The government’s position was that “children’s brains should not be distracted” from school studies by religion, Ubaidullo Azimov, a local official in Tashkent, told RFE/RL.
Azimov added that the government thinks children should only learn what is taught at school, and that religious studies should take place only after students have finished their high-school studies.
The local official was referring to the latest order issued by Uzbekistan’s Education Ministry on September 23 which imposed a fine of about $750 on parents if their children were caught by the authorities in mosque.
The huge fine equals to 15 months’ salary at the country’s minimum wage.
It also warns imams at mosques not to allow anyone under the age of 18 into prayer services.
On the other hand, President Islam Karimov on August 18 declared that September 24 is a public holiday in Uzbekistan so that Muslims can celebrate `Eid. It makes no specific reference to any ban on children in mosques.
Karimov’s decree also congratulates the country’s Muslims on the holiday.
Muslims celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrificeâ€ which marks the end of annual hajj.
After special prayers to mark the day, Muslims offer Udhiyah, a ritual that reminds of the great act of sacrifice Prophet Ibrahim and his son Isma`eel were willing to make for the sake of God.
A financially-able Muslim sacrifices a single sheep or goat or shares six others in sacrificing a camel or cow as an act of worship during the four-day `Eid Al-Adha.
The Udhiyah meat should be divided in three equal parts, one each for one’s own family, friends and the poor.
It is permissible that someone in another country could perform the sacrifice on one’s behalf.
Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous nation, is at the heart of a geopolitical power struggle between the West and Russia.
Rights groups have long accused Uzbekistan of suppressing religious freedoms as part of a campaign against Islamic extremism.
In a 2012 country report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch accused the Uzbek authorities of continuing â€œtheir unrelenting, multi-year campaign of arbitrary detention, arrest and torture of Muslims who practice their faith outside state controlsâ€.
In March 2012, Uzbek authorities prohibited the sale of religious clothing, specifically hijabs and face veil, at several Tashkent markets following a secretive ban on sales.