EXCELLENT! Tajikistan’s authoritarian leader has approved a law barring children and teenagers under 18 from praying in mosques as his secular government seeks to minimize the rising influence of Islam in the Central Asian nation.
NY TIMES –(H/T Herr OYAL) –President Emomali Rakhmon signed the bill Wednesday despite vocal resistance from rights activists and the opposition Islamic Revival Party.
The law also requires people under the age of 18 to study in secular schools thus barring thousands of students from attending mosque schools seen by authorities as a breeding ground of Islamism.
The impoverished and predominantly Sunni Muslim nation shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan.The country was ravaged in the 1990s by a civil war between government forces and a loose alliance of Islamists and democrats.
REUTERS –Tajikistan’s move toward banning children and adolescents from worshipping in mosques and churches, drawing criticism from Muslim leaders who oppose the Central Asian state’s crackdown on religious freedom. The lower house of parliament in the impoverished ex-Soviet republic this week passed a “parental responsibility” bill that would make it illegal to allow children to be part of a religious institution not officially sanctioned by the state.
Authorities say the measures are necessary to prevent the spread of religious fundamentalism in the volatile republic, the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics, where government troops have been fighting insurgents in the mountainous east. Muslim leaders said the law, the brainchild of long-serving President Imomali Rakhmon, would only increase discontent among the majority Muslim population.
“It’s a black day for Muslims. Even in Soviet times, such punitive measures and religious persecution did not exist,” said prominent Muslim theologist Akbar Turadzhonzoda. “If the state doesn’t want to, the people will defend their faith themselves.”
Tajikistan, which shares a 1,340 km (840 mile) border with Afghanistan, has accused religious groups of stoking unrest. Rakhmon last year called home students from religious schools abroad and criticised a growing trend for Islamic dress.