TAJIKISTAN: State control of Islam increasing

By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

Tajikistan continues to increase state control of Muslims exercising freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Only one madrassah (Islamic religious school) is allowed to operate, all others having been closed. An imam fired by the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) in July 2013 remains unemployed, and in February 2014 the SCRA ordered sermons on one topic to be preached in every mosque where preaching is permitted by the state. Also, President Emomali Rahmon has decided that imams must wear a uniform and be paid by the state. Asked why imams cannot themselves decide what they should preach on, SCRA Deputy Chair Solehjon Zavkiyev denied to Forum 18 that the instruction came from the SCRA. “It was a decision of the Council of Ulems”, he claimed, “and I don’t see anything wrong in it.” Imam Ibodullo Kalonzoda from Sogd Region told Forum 18 that “I do not think it is state interference”. He went on to claim that “military men have their uniforms, so do the police and other state officials. The imams need to have their official uniform”.

Tajikistan is continuing to increase state restrictions on Muslims exercising their freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Only one madrassah (Islamic religious school) is allowed to operate by the authorities, all others having been closed down. An imam fired by the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) in July 2013 remains unemployed, and in February 2014 the SCRA ordered sermons on one topic to be preached in every mosque where preaching is permitted by the state. Also, President Emomali Rahmon has decided that imams must wear a standard uniform (which the imams have to pay for themselves) and be paid by the state.

Other existing state limitations on freedom of religion or belief include: a total ban on all participation by people under the age of 18 in all religious activity, apart from funerals; a ban on all exercise of freedom of religion or belief without state permission; sweeping limitations on the numbers of mosques permitted; limitations on the right to share beliefs; tight government censorship; and state appointment and dismissal of imams (see Forum 18’s Tajikistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1553).

Tajikistan’s Constitution claims in article 8 that “no state ideology or religion may be established” and that “religious organisations are separate from the state and may not interfere in governmental affairs”. Yet this does not stop multiple violations of these claims in the Religion Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, and in official actions. The life of the Islamic community is mainly restricted from inside its structures by the state, notably through the Council of Ulems, and the lives of other communities tend to be restricted from outside their structures (see Forum 18’s Tajikistan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1553).

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