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'Beautiful Girl In Hijab': Uzbek Rapper Supports Islamic Dress, Forced Underground

Mannequins in a shop show the head-scarf style officially promoted for women in Uzbekistan.
Mannequins in a shop show the head-scarf style officially promoted for women in Uzbekistan.

Unable to unveil his rap song at a suppressed flash-mob protest against Uzbekistan's ban on women covering their heads in public places, singer Young Zapik released it on social media.

The young underground rapper's ode in support of a woman's right to wear an Islamic head scarf, Beautiful Girl In Hijab, has made a big splash on social media and has led to stormy debates on the ban.

Many people are against the hijab ban -- which has been in place since the 1990s rule of authoritarian President Islam Karimov -- and were angered that a flash-mob protest set for September 5 in Tashkent was disallowed by officials.

"We wanted to hold a peaceful assembly on September 5 in defense of our women wearing head scarves and dressing in the hijab," one Tashkent blogger told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. "However, the authorities did not allow us to hold such an event. The song of [Young Zapik] was to become a leitmotif to unite all the participants of the [rally]."

After the flash-mob ban, Young Zapik, whose identity is unknown and who has refused to speak to RFE/RL or other media outlets for fear of arrest, put his pro-headwear lyrics about a beautiful woman in a hijab on his Instagram page.

The song includes the lines:
The hijab suits her, but I can't look at her face
I want to win her over, but why can't I declare my love to her myself?

The rapper goes on to glorify the "piousness of the girl in a hijab," by singing:
Five prayers daily, love for Allah in her heart
Each prayer, she asks Allah for protection for her loved ones

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But others in Uzbekistan don't think people should promote the wearing of the hijab and support the government ban on any such songs.

"In Islam, it is only during war that we are allowed to beat the drums," one Tashkent university student, who gave his name as Faruk Umar, told RFE/RL. "Now the rap song by Young Zapik has spread through Telegram [and other social-media sites] and I think this is wrong. [When] we [Muslims] perform such songs, we are committing sin."

The wearing of the hijab is a hot topic in Uzbekistan.
The wearing of the hijab is a hot topic in Uzbekistan.

Some Uzbeks point to what they see as hypocrisy by Young Zapik, who sings about his attraction to a woman in a hijab when the headwear itself is designed to reduce the appeal of a woman and prevent such interest. They add that rap music itself often promotes a lifestyle that can be seen as being against Islamic practices.

An official at Uzbekkontsert, the state body that oversees Uzbekistan's entertainment industry, told RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media that Young Zapik was not registered as a singer with the entity and therefore had no license to record songs or otherwise carry out creative work.

The Uzbekkontsert employee added that at an official meeting of the agency last month, singers who sang about Islam or were shown in a hijab or with a beard were sharply criticized.

'Hijab Activism'

The coming to power of President Shavkat Mirziyoev in 2016, following the death of Karimov, brought hope to many Uzbeks that the hijab ban would be loosened or even scrapped.

That optimism was reflected by "hijab activism," seen mostly online and exemplified by Young Zapik's protest song.

In September, a Tashkent imam, Fazliddin Parpiev, rejected his state-approved Friday Prayer sermon and proclaimed his opposition to the state's ban on head coverings and bearded men. This led to his immediate expulsion from his post.

The big hope many had for change in social policies under Mirziyoev fizzled when the government announced a new nationwide school-uniform policy on August 16, which made it clear that hijabs would continue to be banned in Uzbekistan.

The uniform rules at the Islamic Academy in Tashkent are clear.
The uniform rules at the Islamic Academy in Tashkent are clear.

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