According to the U.S. Department of State: “There is no official state religion, but the government recognizes the “special status” of Hanafi Sunni Islam. The Center for Islamic Studies, under the president’s executive office, monitors religious issues and helps formulate the government’s policy toward religion. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, |+|]

“The law on parental responsibility prohibits persons under 18 years from participating in public religious activities, including attending the Hajj, with the exception of funerals. With written parental consent, the law allows minors between the ages of seven and 18 to obtain a religious education in their free time outside of school classes and the state education curriculum, and to worship as part of educational activities at religious institutions.|+|

“By law all religious groups must register with the government to operate. The CRA oversees this process. In the absence of registration, local authorities can force a place of worship to close, and fine each member from 280-400 somoni ($53-$75) for first time offenders, 480-800 somoni ($91-$151) for repeat offenders, 800-2,000 somoni ($151-$377) for religious group leaders, and 400-16,000 somoni ($75-$3,019) for illegal entities. The government maintains a list of banned groups it considers extremist, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, Jamaat Tabligh, Islamic Group (Islamic Community of Pakistan), Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, Islamic Party of Turkestan (former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan – IMU), Lashkar-e-Tayba, Tojiksitoni Ozod, Sozmoni Tablighot, Salafiya, Jamaat Ansarullah, and Group 24.|+|

“The law restricts Muslim prayer to four locations: mosques, cemeteries, homes, and shrines. The law on religion regulates registration, size, and location of mosques, limiting the number of mosques that may be registered within a given population area. “Friday” mosques, which conduct prayers five times per day as well as the larger Friday prayers, are allowed in districts with populations of 10,000 to 20,000 persons; “five-time” mosques, which conduct only daily prayers, are allowed in areas with populations of 100 to 1,000. In Dushanbe, Friday mosques are allowed in areas with 30,000 to 50,000 persons, and five-time mosques are allowed in areas with populations of 1,000 to 5,000. The religion law allows one “central Friday mosque” per district or city, and makes other mosques subordinate to it. Mosques function on the basis of their self-designed charters in the buildings constructed by appropriate religious communities or citizens, or with the assistance of the population. The law stipulates that imam-khatibs (religious leaders who preach sermons and conduct weekly Friday prayers), and imams be selected by “the appropriate state body in charge of religious affairs.” |+|

“The law provides criminal penalties for violating restrictions on sending citizens abroad for religious education, preaching, and teaching religious doctrines, and establishing ties with religious groups abroad without CRA consent. The law also provides penalties for religious groups that engage in activities contrary to the purposes and objectives set out in their charter, and makes the CRA responsible for handing down fines for such offenses.|+|

“During the year the CRA approved 23 applications to create a religious organization. During a January 14 press conference, CRA officials stated the CRA approved 135 out of 416 applications for registration submitted by religious associations in 2013. Of the 135 approved applications, three were central Friday mosques, 10 were Friday prayer mosques, and 122 were five-time prayer mosques. The CRA refused 238 applications for failure to conform with legal requirements for registration as a religious association.|+|

Islamic Laws Restricting Women in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: Women from the majority Hanafi Sunni Muslim community remained barred from attending religious services by a fatwa issued by the Council of Ulema, the country’s highest body of Islamic scholars...A 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques remains in effect, reinforcing official government policies regarding women praying in mosques. The fatwa states that, according to the country’s Islamic traditions based on the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence, women should pray at home. Women of other traditions, such as Ismaili Shia and Christians, are not subject to the Council of Ulema’s prohibition. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, |+|]

“Mosques generally enforced the 2004 Council of Ulema fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques. Many imams stated they believed they would face problems with the government if they allowed women to attend their mosques. On January 14, head of the Council of Ulema Saidmukarram Abdulqodirzoda told journalists that the Council of Ulema issued the fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques because mosques lacked the proper facilities for women to pray separately from men. For example, he said, most mosque buildings were single-story with only one entrance. Abdulqodirzoda stated that the Council of Ulema would repeal the fatwa if mosque facilities were modified to allow men and women to enter and pray separately from each other. Civil society contacts indicated that some Sunni Hanafi women were interested in praying in congregations, but faced obstacles due to the government’s prohibition on unauthorized religious gatherings.|+|

“Some women and girls who wore hijabs were discriminated against by government officials and denied access to public facilities. Enforcement was particularly rigid in schools...The government did not permit school and university students to wear hijabs. The MOE dress code did not permit teachers under the age of 50 to have a beard...On May 29, a teacher at a Rudaki District school scolded fifth grader Shukrona Davlatova for wearing the hijab to an after-school class and asked her to take the hijab off. Davlatova’s parents told journalists the teacher scared her to the point that she swallowed a pin from her headscarf that she had been holding in her teeth while attempting to remove the hijab.”|+|

Laws Prohibiting Islamic Practices in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “A 2012 City of Dushanbe public disturbance regulation, which prohibits the use of external loudspeakers for azan (the Islamic call to prayer) in the city’s mosques if residents in the vicinity of the mosque complain to city authorities, remains in effect. Loudspeakers, however, remain in use for azan in many areas of Dushanbe.| [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State |+|]

“The law regulates private celebrations, including weddings and Mavludi Payghambar (the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday), and funeral services. The law limits the number of guests, eliminates engagement parties, and controls ceremonial gift presentations and other rituals. The religion law reiterates these principles, mandating that “mass worship, religious traditions, and ceremonies should be carried out according to the procedure of holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, and peaceful processions prescribed by law.” During the year the Council of Ulema maintained its interpretation of sharia limiting beard lengths for men to no larger than the size of a fist and stating that women’s clothing should cover the entire body except for hands, face, and feet.|+|

Restrictions of Madrassahs in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “The religion law requires that all institutions or groups wishing to provide religious instruction first obtain permission and register with the CRA. Only central district mosques may operate madrassahs for high school graduates. Other mosques, if registered with the government, may operate religious schools for younger students. Parents may teach religious beliefs to their children in their homes, provided the child expresses a desire to learn. The law forbids religious homeschooling outside the immediate family. [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State |+|]

“During the year, the government closed at least two unlicensed madrassahs, “temporarily suspended” the activities of 128 mosques which were not registered with the CRA, and allowed 44 mosques whose activities had been suspended to resume their activities.|+|

“On June 11, a Sughd Regional Department of Religious Affairs official told reporters that the five madrassahs, whose activities had been suspended since June 2013, were scheduled to resume their activities by September 1. The Sughd Regional Department of Religious Affairs created a special working group to develop curricula and determine educational standards for the madrassahs to enable them to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education (MOE). In addition to religious subjects, the newly developed curriculum was to include vocational training. According to the official, authorities at the madrassah in Khujand had prepared all the necessary documents to receive a license from the MOE, and authorities at the remaining madrassahs were preparing the necessary documents to obtain a license in time to resume their activities at the start of the academic year. None of the madrassahs, however, had received licenses from the MOE by the end of the year.|+|

“The MOE oversaw implementation of legal provisions related to religious instruction in schools. Islamic education could be provided only at Islamic institutions. The MOE approved the rector, faculty, and all programs of study at the Islamic Institute of Tajikistan, the only Muslim higher education institution in the country. The government inspected the curricula at madrassahs and periodically monitored classes.|+|

Restrictions of Muslim Activities in Tajikistan

According to the U.S. Department of State: “During the first half of the year, officials levied a total of 3,865 somoni ($729) in fines on 22 people for praying in an unsanctioned area. Over the same period, officials initiated 157 administrative cases against individuals for illegally teaching religious beliefs, levying a total of 44,760 somoni ($8,445) in fines. According to the CRA, 158 citizens were illegally studying religion in Islamic countries. In total, 3,054 citizens of the country were found to have illegally received religious education abroad; 2,896 of them voluntarily returned at the completion of their studies. The CRA requires that students have completed a higher education degree domestically and be enrolled at an officially registered university abroad in order to receive permission to study religion abroad.| [Source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014: Tajikistan; International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State |+|]

“According to media reports, four imam-khatibs in Kulob District left their positions July 15 after they used electronic devices to identify qiblah (the direction of Mecca, which Muslims face during prayers). It was unclear if they left their positions voluntarily. A Kulob Regional Department of Religious Affairs official told reporters that “arbitrary innovations” in identifying qiblah caused confusion and inconsistency among congregation members. A commission of Council of Ulema members and imam-khatibs determined that the imam-khatibs could not sufficiently justify departing from the traditional method of identifying qiblah and said their actions were professionally untenable.|+|

“Officials inspected bookstores, newsstands, kiosks, markets, and mosques, and confiscated unregistered religious materials. Vendors were allowed to sell basic Islamic texts, including the Quran, the Hadith, the history of the Prophet, and prayer books. The government, however, did not permit vendors to sell Shia literature, texts considered “non-Hanafi,” or audio and video disks featuring prominent Tajik imams. Foreign religious movies, the sale of which the government had previously restricted, were available during the year.|+|

Repression of Islamic Practices Under Rahmon

In March 2015, Catherine Putz wrote in The Diplomat, “President Emomali Rahmon railed against women wearing black clothing–which he said was not traditionally Tajik. Rumors have circulated widely, thanks to state-controlled media–that prostitutes were donning hijabs in order to make more money. And the state announced last week that it would not permit those under the age of 35 to travel to Mecca on hajj this year. Couched in terms of practicality–Saudi Arabia lowered Tajikistan’s hajj quota–and deference for elders, the restriction nonetheless has upset some of Tajikistan’s devout. One man, a 31-year old petty trader from Dushanbe, interviewed by AFP said that “[e]veryday I pray to God that I might visit our sacred holy places. But now state officials have ruined my dreams.” [Source: Catherine Putz, The Diplomat, April 29, 2015 =]

“In the political realm, Islam has also suffered. In March flawed parliamentary elections saw the region’s only Islamist political party, the IRPT, swept entirely out of parliament for the first time since the end of the civil war in 1997. The IRPT maintains a secular political platform and in 2013 backed a secular, liberal, woman for president. Oinikhol Bobonazarova never made it to the actual election and recently spoke to IWPR about the arbitrary direction of recent lawmaking in the country. =

“Tajikistan, like its neighbors, has increasingly spoken out over the past few months about the looming threat of ISIS in the region. Although not all Central Asia analysts agree that Muslim radicalization is a serious and present danger, the governments of the region seem convinced. Numbers vary but the government of Tajikistan state estimates between 200 and 300 have gone to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Many, according to researchers, are recruited in Russia where they work as migrant laborers.” =

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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