Mosques and Islamic Education Under Increasing Scrutiny in Tajikistan

The Tajik government has recently taken steps to put the country’s mosques, imams (prayer-leaders) and madrasahs (Islamic schools) under greater centralized control. Speaking at the country’s Security Council meeting on February 10, President Emomali Rahmon urged more decisive measures against the unchecked proliferation of mosques. According to official estimates, 3,700 mosques have been registered with the government to date, while another 1,250 mosques continue to operate without a license (www.avesta.tj, February 10). The authorities believe that 5,000 mosques is too large a number for the country, compared, for instance, with only 3,800 schools.

Tajik officials view unregistered mosques with suspicion because they have no control over what is preached there. According to Rahmon, some mosques are used for fomenting religious radicalism and “recruiting young people to the ranks of extremists.” The Tajik president also asserted that such mosques had served as a starting point for the “events in Rasht,” referring to the recent conflict in the Rasht valley. The conflict claimed the lives of at least 80 government troops, becoming the most serious episode of violence in the country since the late 1990’s (www.news.tj, February 11). The government closed and demolished dozens of unregistered mosques in recent years. In 2011, only 10 mosques have so far been shut down in the country (www.regnum.ru, January 10).

In addition to tightening control over mosques, the authorities have taken measures to subject imams and their preaching to greater scrutiny. In January, the Committee of Religious Affairs (CRA) announced that it compiled a list of 52 topics recommended for Friday sermons and would soon distribute the list to imams across Tajikistan. The list of topics focuses mainly on moral values (www.avesta.tj, January 10). In addition, the CRA announced that sermons following Friday prayers will be limited to 15 minutes, reportedly in a bid to prevent imams from going “off-topic” (Central Asia Online, January 31). According to the CRA, the innovations are intended to help promote “conventional” Islamic values, while at the same time preventing the politicization of sermons and preaching of intolerance.

While enacting the new guidelines for preachers, the government has also increased pressure on those imams who frequently criticize state policies. On January 28, one of the country’s leading clerics, Nuriddin Turajonzoda (aka Eshoni Nuriddin), resigned as imam-hatib of Muhammadiya mosque in Vahdat district near the Tajik capital. Although the cleric has not commented on his resignation, many analysts believe that he was pressured to quit by the authorities. In recent years, Eshoni Nuriddin’s sermons grew increasingly popular, bringing thousands of Muslims each week to his mosque for Friday prayer. The authorities watched him cautiously as he often criticized repressive state policies against everything Islamic. In 2009, he announced his intention to leave the country if the governmental security agencies did not leave him alone. Another 10 imams in Dushanbe resigned on the same day as Eshoni Nuriddin, leaving little doubt that they had done so under government pressure (ASIA-Plus, January 31).

The efforts to close unsanctioned mosques and control preachers have been matched by policies aimed at limiting religious education opportunities outside of state control for children and young people. In 2010, Tajik police shut down dozens of unregistered madrasahs that had operated in private homes and mosques. The authorities claimed the purpose of the heavy-handed approach towards unapproved madrasahs was to prevent religious leaders with an extremist agenda from promoting intolerance and the hatred towards the secular state among Tajik children (EDM, August 10, 2010). In addition, the country’s religious authorities and police have regularly raided mosques to discourage children from attending prayers. A draft law on parental responsibilities, which is now widely discussed in Tajikistan, is expected to ban children under 18 from attending mosques and churches (www.ozodi.org, February 18).

In an effort to improve children’s knowledge of a liberal, Hanafi version of Islam, practiced by the majority of Tajiks, in September 2009, the Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced a mandatory class on Islam called “Knowledge of Islam” (Ma’rifati Islom). The new course was fiercely criticized by some prominent Islamic scholars because it allegedly “distorted historical facts.” In February 2011, however, the MoE announced that the course on Islam was removed from the school curriculum to make room for more classes on Tajik history (www.news.tj, February 4).

At the same time, the authorities have launched a massive campaign to bring back hundreds of Tajik students from madrasahs abroad. The campaign was ordered by President Rahmon who, in August 2010, announced that foreign Islamic schools were turning young students into terrorists and extremists, and that all Tajiks should be brought back from such schools before becoming “traitors” (www.avesta.tj, August 25, 2010). According to Rahmon, more than 1,500 students have already returned to the country, while over 2,100 Tajiks continue studying in foreign madrasahs (www.news.tj, February 11).

These developments appear to demonstrate the Tajik officials’ strong belief that Islam represents a growing threat to the regime and that this needs to be addressed. However, the authorities fail to understand that their heavy-handed, top-down approach to dealing with everything Islamic alienates the country’s Muslims and provides an ideal breeding ground for radical ideas.

(By Alexander Sodiqov, Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 41, March 1, 2011)

5 Comments

Filed under Authoritarianism, Education, Islam, Radicalism, Tajikistan

5 responses to “Mosques and Islamic Education Under Increasing Scrutiny in Tajikistan

  1. Alexander Sodiqov

    Tajik students that have been forced to return home from foreign Islamic (and not only Islamic) schools face problems in accessing higher education opportunities in Tajikistan…

    Как сложилась судьба студентов, вернувшихся из-за рубежа

    Радиои Озоди, Харамгул Кодир, 2 марта 2011 г.

    14 таджикских студентов усилиями посольства Таджикистана в Украине были эвакуированы из Ливии в Киев.
    27 февраля при содействии МЧС России еще двое таджикских студентов были перевезены из Триполи в Москву. Кроме того, посольство Таджикистана в Каире предпринимает меры по вывозу своих граждан из Ливии. На сегодняшний день из Ливии эвакуировано 18 таджикских студентов.

    Процесс возращения таджикской молодежи из исламских государств начался в конце 2010 года, на фоне последних событий число возвращающихся увеличивается, и что их ждет на родине?

    Судьба возвратившихся студентов

    27-летний Умед, один из таджикских студентов, потратил 1000 долларов, чтобы вернутся из Египта в Таджикистан. Он три года назад по квоте Министерства образования выехал в Египет для продолжения обучения, однако с началом беспорядков в этой стране, 7 февраля был вынужден вернуться в Таджикистан, и сейчас пока не определился в каком высшем учебном заведении республики продолжить обучение.

    “Говорят, что по указанию сверху, независимо от места обучения не принимают без согласования. Там же (в Египте) я изучал светские науки, мировую экономику и политику, международные отношения. Мне говорят, что это не пойдет”, – говорит он.

    По его словам, он обучался на отделении востоковедения Таджикского национального университета (ТНУ) и по согласованию с министерством образования был направлен для обучения в Египет. Умед отметил, что согласно договоренности, после получения в Египте журналистского образования он должен был вернуться на родину.

    Несмотря на приложенные усилия при переводе в ТГНУ, при приеме в этот вуз не учли его двухлетнее обучение в Египте и не приняли на пятый курс. По его словам, после многих усилий и сдачи соответствующих документов он был допущен для продолжения обучения на отделение востоковедения ТГНУ, однако администрация университета заявила, что зачислила его только на третий курс.

    В последние месяцы, после призыва президента о необходимости возращения студентов из исламских государств на родину в Таджикистан вернулись сотни молодых людей. По данным Комитета по делам религии, из исламских стран вернулись 1200 студентов и этот процесс продолжается по сей день.

    50 студентов обратились в министерство

    Абдусаттор Одинаев, начальник отдела развития международных программ министерства образования сообщил оадио Озоди, что к сегодняшнему дню порядка 50 вернувшихся студентов обратились в министерство по вопросу продолжения обучения в высших учебных заведениях республики.

    Он отметил, что при соответствии их документов учебным программам министерства образования и сдачи экзаменов, они получат возможность продолжить обучение на родине. По его словам, в настоящее время часть студентов уже продолжает обучение в вузах республики.

    Как сообщили в Исламском университете Таджикистана, свои документы для продолжения обучения представили 24 студента, однако они еще не приступили к учебе.

    В Комитете по делам религий отметили, что специально разработанная программа для студенческой молодежи, вернувшейся из исламских государств, работает и в соответствии с ней власти пытаются занять сотни молодых людей.

    “Молодежь не должна оставаться на улице”

    По словам таджикского аналитика Талабшо Салома, молодежь, которая вернулась из исламских государств, и студенты, возвратившиеся на родину из нестабильных арабских стран, “не должны оставаться на улице”. В противном случае эта молодежь будет искать пути возвращения обратно в страны, где проходило их обучение.

    Салом говорит, что государство ответственно за создание материальных условий для этой молодежи и необходимо, чтобы сами молодые люди знали о своих гражданских правах и требовали, чтобы им создали условия для обучения.

  2. this is very nice and informatics, and i am going to bookmark this page, i will read it more later.

  3. william

    I believe the Emomali administration is not being reasonable with the great people of the Republic of Tajikistan , professional knowledge is paramount and key for running successful administrations in any form of government.
    The history of Tajik has been marred with a deadly civil war , which has left a collapsed economy . This should be reason enough , for the sake of Tajik future , that the government should prevent such MoE policies that stifle higher education for the Youth.
    Nobody wants to see their country lag behind in terms of technology & information, and especially the infringement of basic human rights. as much as radical Islamics groups are concerned the goverment should realize that forced rule will only result to vicious revolts.
    I live in Africa, and am a Christian
    God bless the people of Tajikistan

  4. Pingback: Tajikistan and Iran: Is Dushanbe Distancing Itself from Cultural Cousin? (EurasiaNet.org) | Tajikistan Monitor

  5. Alexander Sodiqov

    Tajikistan To Recognize More Mosques In Dushanbe

    DUSHANBE — Tajik officials say that more than 50 structures in Dushanbe will soon be officially registered as mosques, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports.

    State Committee for Religious Affairs official Solehjon Zavqiev told RFE/RL on September 13 that Dushanbe municipal authorities have asked the committee to register 57 “public places” as mosques.

    Zavqiev said his committee inspected the sites in question and ruled that 52 meet the necessary sanitary and other requirements to be registered as mosques.

    In 2009, Tajikistan passed a new law on religion that international organizations criticized as “restrictive.” The law required all religious communities to reregister with the State Committee for Religious Affairs.

    Many mosques, some churches, and other non-Islamic places of worship were denied reregistration at that time. Some of those locations were built as venues for weddings or funerals and never had the formal status of mosques, although they were sometimes used as such.

    There are currently some 3,823 mosques and other places of worship in Tajikistan.

    Forty of them are central Friday Prayers mosques. There are also a total of 74 non-Islamic places of worship, including churches.

    There are also thousands of smaller neighborhood mosques open for daily prayers.

    The 2009 religion law requires the registration of neighborhood mosques in districts where there are between 1,000 and 5,000 worshippers.

    Mosques in Tajikistan are administered by the State Committee for Religious Affairs, while other “public places” are run by local councils.

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