Wed, 20 Mar 2019

An Uzbek government official was forced to take a leave of absence and was placed under police protection after she received death threats following a online post she made referring to polygamy and the Prophet Muhammad.

Nargiza Rakhimova, a deputy official with the Uzbek Press and Information Agency, made the post in response to a reader's comment supporting polygamy that was made on RFE/RL's Uzbek Service's Facebook page ahead of International Women's Day.

'Only whipped men who can't even deal with one woman, and slutty women who only know how to milk their stupid husbands would be opposed to polygamy,' read the original comment posted by Hayot Baxtiyor O'gli.

Rakhimova responded on March 3 by writing: 'Our prophet did not take a second wife when our mother Khadija was alive. I don't know, maybe he was a whipped husband, maybe our mother Khadija was a slut. You know all this better. Hazrat Ali (son-in-law of Muhammad) also didn't take a second wife when our mother Fatima was alive.'

A source in the Prosecutor-General's Office, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the precautions were taken after her post led to the threats and demands for her dismissal.

Amid the outcry, Rakhimova posted a video apologizing for her remarks, but the threats continued.

The invective directed at Rakhimova included threats on various social media detailing how they wished to punish her.

According to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, the threats targeted not only the 35-year-old Rakhimova, but her husband and four children.

Police are investigating the origins of the social media accounts on which they were posted.

Rakhimova's March 9 video apology on the online site of Azon Tas attributed the outrage to a 'misunderstanding.'

'I, as an ordinary servant of God, would like to offer all Muslims my sincere apologies for my comments that have caused so much heated debate,' Rakhimova said in the video.

But as the abuse continued, Rakhimova pulled the plug on all her social-media accounts.

According to the Fergana news website, the office of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has been inundated with demands to dismiss Rakhimova.

A government committee for religious affairs has not directly commented on the case but noted that comments which 'insult religious feelings' are subject to criminal prosecution.

Whether officials plan to press charges against Rakhimova is unclear.

Tony Wesolowsky

Tony Wesolowsky is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL.

WesolowskyA@rferl.org Subscribe via RSS RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

RFE/RL's Radio Ozodlik is one of the only sources of reliable news and information for people in Uzbekistan. The country remains one of the most repressive in the world in terms of media freedom and human rights issues.

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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