A Note On Islam in Uzbekistan
More than 80 percent of the population of Uzbekistan is Muslim; the vast majority adheres to the Hannafi school of Sunnism. During the Soviet era the Muslim Board of Central Asia and Kazakhstan controlled Islamic worship and study, regulating the registration of mosques, appointing imams to lead local congregations, and dictating the content of sermons and Islamic practice. The agency survived Uzbekistan's transition to independence in 1991, becoming the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan and retaining its responsibility for the regulation and restriction of the population's religious beliefs and practices. Independence gave rise to a revival of popular interest in Islam, which the government sought to use as a tool in building national identity and solidifying its monopoly on power.4 During this revival, some imams began to preach without deference to the Muslim Board, communities founded mosques that were not registered by the board, and a variety of Islamic literature not approved by the board became available. The brief period of relative tolerance came to an end in 1992 when the Karimov administration, having defeated its political rivals, turned its attention to Islam, which it apparently perceived as a similar threat to its hold on power.
4 During glasnost and after independence, while many Uzbeks adopted Islam in name only, others began openly to observe holidays, rituals, and Friday prayers. Some, particularly younger Muslims, chose a stricter form religious education and adopted religious dress and other obligations prescribed by a conservative interpretation of Islam. Still others regarded Islam as the basis for an alternative social and political system, a religious state.