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Tajikistan Bans Hijab, Imposes Restrictions on Eid in Continued Crackdown on Islamic Practices

Dushanbe: In a move that has sparked international condemnation, Tajikistan’s parliament has passed a controversial bill banning hijabs and restricting Eid celebrations, intensifying the government’s crackdown on Islamic expression on its 98% Muslim-majority population.

The bill, approved by Tajikistan’s upper house, Majlisi Milli, on June 19, targets what it refers to as “alien garments,” primarily hijabs and other Islamic attire. The legislation imposes significant fines for individuals and organizations violating the dress code. Individuals could face fines up to 7,920 somonis ($700), while companies permitting such attire could be fined up to 39,500 somonis ($3,500). Government officials and religious leaders face even steeper penalties, with fines ranging from 54,000 to 57,600 somonis ($4,800-$5,100).

In addition to the dress code restrictions, the new law also prohibits children from participating in Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha festivities, including the tradition of gift-giving. This follows a long-standing policy of cracking down on Islamic practices including barring children from mosques since 2011, as part of the government’s broader efforts to limit religious influence.

Government officials argue that these measures are aimed at ensuring children’s proper education and safety during the holidays. Tajikistan has seen a rise in Islamic clothing in recent years, which authorities link to extremism and view as a threat to the nation’s cultural identity. President Emomali Rahmon has previously referred to the hijab as “foreign clothing,” promoting traditional Tajik national dress as a preferred alternative.

President Rahmon has defended these measures as necessary to maintain national security and cultural identity, In 2017, he established a commission to promote a “suitable” dress code for citizens, criticizing the wearing of “foreign” black attire by women. This initiative led to widespread campaigns promoting traditional Tajik national clothing as a preferred alternative.

Tajikistan, a predominantly Muslim country with over 98% of its population adhering to Islam, has faced growing criticism for its restrictive policies on religious expression. The government, led by President Emomali Rahmon since 1994, has a history of suppressing public displays of the Islamic faith as part of his nationalist agenda which regards Islam and its practices as a foreign intrusion. These measures have included enforcing an unofficial hijab ban, compelling men to shave their beards, and closing Islamic bookstores.

The Union of Islamic Scholars and Clerics in Afghanistan and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have condemned the new law. CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor 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.”

Human rights organizations have long criticized Tajikistan’s approach to religious freedom. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported systematic and egregious violations of religious liberty in the country, noting severe restrictions on prayers

Given that over 98% of Tajikistan’s population is Muslim, the law is expected to face substantial opposition from the public as it takes effect.

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