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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Tajikistan enforces ban on Hijabs

In addition to clothing regulations, the new law restricts children’s involvement in Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha celebrations.

This week, Tajikistan’s parliament approved a contentious new bill prohibiting the wearing of hijabs and other “alien garments” during Islamic celebrations. The legislation, endorsed by the upper house, Majlisi Milli, on June 19, intensifies an already stringent, unofficial ban on Islamic attire in the Muslim-majority nation.

Individuals caught wearing hijabs or other banned religious clothing now face hefty fines of up to 7,920 somonis (approximately $700). Employers who permit such garments in the workplace are subject to penalties of 39,500 somonis ($3,500). Government officials and religious leaders found in violation could incur fines ranging from 54,000 to 57,600 somonis ($4,800-$5,100).

Eid Festivities and Children’s Participation Restricted

In addition to clothing regulations, the new law restricts children’s involvement in Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha celebrations, including gift-giving traditions. Government officials claim these measures aim to ensure the “proper education and safety” of children during these holidays. This step follows previous bans on children’s participation in mosque activities, enacted since 2011.

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Government’s Rationale and Cultural Concerns

Tajikistan has seen a rise in Islamic clothing from the Middle East, which authorities associate with extremism and a threat to the country’s cultural identity. President Emomali Rahmon has openly criticized the hijab, labeling it as “foreign clothing.” The government has consistently promoted traditional Tajik national dress as an alternative, framing the new law as a move to protect Tajik culture from foreign influences.

History of Restrictions on Islamic Expression

The recent legislation is the latest in a series of measures aimed at curbing public expressions of Islamic faith in Tajikistan. Since 2007, hijabs have been banned in educational settings, a restriction later extended to all public institutions. Additionally, authorities have discouraged men from growing bushy beards, with reports of police forcibly shaving thousands of beards over the past decade.

In 2017, President Rahmon established a commission to create a “suitable” dress code for citizens, resulting in widespread campaigns against the hijab. Efforts included promoting traditional Tajik clothing through text message campaigns and publishing a “Guidebook Of Recommended Outfits In Tajikistan” in 2018. Last year, all Islamic bookstores in the capital were temporarily shut down for alleged violations of religious law.

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The new law has sparked significant backlash from human rights organizations and religious groups. The Union of Islamic Scholars and Clerics in Afghanistan, as well as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have condemned the ban. Corey Saylor, CAIR’s Research and Advocacy 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. We condemn this draconian, repressive law and urge the Tajik government to reverse this decision.”