Tajikistan bans hijab in campaign against public religiosity: All you need to know

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Tajikistan bans hijab in campaign against public religiosity All you need to know

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Introduction

In a significant move ahead of the major Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Tajikistan parliament has approved a law banning the hijab, referring to it as ‘alien garments.’ This legislation imposes penalties on offenders and represents the government’s ongoing efforts to reduce the public display of religion while promoting Tajik culture. The new law also prohibits the custom of “Idi,” where children traditionally seek gifts and money during Eid. This decision has sparked a wide range of reactions both within Tajikistan and internationally. Here’s a comprehensive look at the situation.

Details of the Ban

  • Government Action:
    • The ban was given the green light by Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, with the lower chamber of parliament passing the bill on June 8, as reported by Asia Plus.
    • The law predominantly targets the hijab and other traditional Islamic clothing items that have become more prevalent in Tajikistan in recent years, largely influenced by the Middle East.
  • Rationale Behind the Ban:
    • The Tajik government associates the hijab with Islamic extremism and sees its prevalence as a threat to national security and cultural identity.
    • An unofficial ban on the hijab had been in place for years, with the education ministry banning both Islamic clothing and western-style miniskirts for students back in 2007.
    • The government has actively promoted Tajik national dress through various campaigns, seeking to reinforce cultural norms.
  • Penalties:
    • Individuals found violating the ban can face fines up to 7,920 somonis, while legal entities could be fined up to 39,500 somonis.
    • Government officials and religious authorities face even steeper penalties, ranging from 54,000 to 57,600 somonis if they are found guilty of non-compliance.

Broader Context and Additional Restrictions

Cultural and Religious Regulation:

  • In addition to the hijab ban, Tajikistan has placed various other restrictions on religious and cultural expressions.
  • Bushy beards have been unofficially banned, aligning with the country’s broader campaign to limit visible signs of Islamic piety.
  • There are existing laws that restrict Islamic prayer to specific, designated locations.
  • Two years ago, the sale of black clothes was banned in Dushanbe, the capital city, reflecting the government’s attempt to curb influences deemed incompatible with Tajik cultural identity.

Reactions and Criticisms

  • International and Local Response:
    • The official hijab ban has drawn condemnation from various organizations and religious groups.
    • The Union of Islamic Scholars and clerics in Afghanistan, along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have voiced strong opposition.
    • Corey Saylor, CAIR director, stated, “Banning the hijab is a violation of religious freedom and such bans on religious attire should have no place in any nation that respects the rights of its people.”
  • Implications for Religious Freedom:
    • Critics argue that the ban infringes on religious freedom and targets the Muslim-majority population, predominantly Sunni Muslims, which could further alienate religious communities.
    • The move could be seen as part of a broader pattern of government efforts to control religious expression and integrate a secular national identity.

Conclusion

Tajikistan’s ban on the hijab and other public religious displays marks a contentious chapter in the country’s efforts to promote its cultural heritage over religious identity. While the government justifies the ban as necessary for national security and cultural cohesion, the law has sparked significant criticism for its potential to infringe on personal freedoms and religious rights. As Tajikistan navigates these complex cultural dynamics, the international community will likely continue to scrutinize and respond to these developments.

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