A prominent imam in Uzbekistan has called for the death penalty for Muslims who join radical groups, saying it would act as a deterrent.
“We should reserve punishments for them like the ones they have in Islamic states,” Shermurov Togai, a well-known imam in Tashkent said in a Facebook status, according to EurasiaNet.org. “We cannot spare the enemies of our religion and people who are hampering our freedom. They have become accustomed to free accommodation in prison, with free food and all the services for free.”
Togai since deleted his comments, citing a barrage of complaints and comments criticizing him.
“I remember the early 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and racketeering and mafia began to flourish in Uzbekistan. In those days, [then president] Islam Karimov introduced capital punishment and these things disappeared, and criminality and stealing cars came to an end,” Togai told EurasiaNet. “Well, I thought if we brought in the death penalty for people who have gone astray and joined Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamic State, then maybe the number of people in those groups would stop growing.”
Although the death penalty has not been legal in Uzbekistan since 2008, the country is described by the CIA World Factbook as “highly authoritarian.” Togai himself was described in EurasiaNews as being part of “an older generation of religious figures in Uzbekistan given to ultra-orthodox views about religion and the role of women in private life.”
Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international Islamist movement that aims to re-establish a caliphate and implement sharia as state law, but advocates peaceful means to reach that goal. ISIS has already declared a caliphate and implemented sharia as state law using violence.
ISIS and Hizb ut-Tahrir are both banned in Uzbekistan.