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Senate Gives Uzbek Governor Three Months' Probation After Anti-Islamic Remarks

Ferghana Governor Shuhrat Ghaniev is known for making rude public remarks.
Ferghana Governor Shuhrat Ghaniev is known for making rude public remarks.

TASHKENT -- An Uzbek regional governor has been given three months' probation by the Senate after rudely lambasting Muslim women's head scarves and the long, bushy beards many men wear, saying they promote Islamic extremism.

Shuhrat Ghaniev, the governor of the populous eastern region of Ferghana, was officially reprimanded at the Senate's session on September 30.

RFE/RL obtained an audio recording of the governor's speech about the campaign in Ferghana against the hijab and bushy beards, which are widely seen as outward signs of Islam.

Ghaniev, who is also a member of the Senate, can be heard issuing an angry warning to district governors that he had zero tolerance for women wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

"Remember this, dear governors: if I see a woman in such clothing in your official meetings -- I don't care if she's a neighborhood chief, a teacher, a businesswoman, an activist, a lawmaker -- I'll remove her head scarf and shove it in your mouth," he blared.

Ghaniev can be also heard on the recording speaking about men with "ugly beards" in public places, repeatedly raising his voice and cursing.

Ghaniev, who has been known for making rude remarks in public for some time, also called those attending the meeting "stupid."

The governor has since apologized for his remarks.

Authorities in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic have limited the wearing of the Islamic hijab in schools and offices. A 1998 law prohibits the wearing of religious clothing in public, except for religious figures.

There have also been frequent reports of police singling out men with long beards, a campaign presented by officials as an effort to combat radical Islam in Central Asia's most populous country.

The Ferghana region, located in eastern Uzbekistan, has a population of some 3.6 million people.

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