Prominent Tajik religious and political figure, Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, and his brothers, Nuriddin and Muhammadjon, have, in recent weeks, come under increasing pressure from the authorities. On December 6, 2011, the Council of Ulamo (CoU), a government-controlled body regulating Islamic activities in the country, accused the Turajonzoda brothers of observing the holiday of Ashura, which has a special significance for Shia Muslims. The holiday is not observed in Tajikistan where the majority of people are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi tradition.
The CoU’s statement alleged that on December 2, Nuriddin and Muhammadjon performed the Ashura ritual at the Muhammadiya Mosque. The mosque in the village of Turkobod, some 30 kilometers east of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, is one of the largest in the country. It belongs to the Turajonzoda family. Muhammadjon Turajonzoda served as the mosque’s imam after the elder brother, Nuriddin, had been forced by the authorities to resign in January 2011 (EDM, March 3, 2011).
“We are surprised that the ritual [of Ashura] was performed by members of the prominent religious family of Turajonzoda who claim to belong to the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam,” the statement said, adding “This ritual is entirely in contradiction to the Hanafi tradition… [The] Turajonzoda brothers want to popularize an alien religious practice among our people… We must stay vigilant and protect our faith from various plots; we must not allow hypocritical individuals to endanger the spiritual unity of our nation…” The statement also implied that Turajonzoda brothers were responsible for political confrontation leading up to the civil war in Tajikistan in 1992-1997 (www.khovar.tj, December 9).