Freedom of religion in Tajikistan
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Tajikistan's policies reflect a concern about
Some mainstream Muslim leaders occasionally express, through sermons and press articles, their opinion that minority religious groups undermine national unity.
The country of Tajikistan has an area of 143,000 square kilometres (55,300 sq mi) and a population of 7 million, although it is difficult to determine an accurate figure due to absence of birth registrations in some rural areas. An estimated 97 percent of citizens consider themselves Muslims, although the degree of religious observance varies widely. Overall, active observance of Islam appears to be increasing steadily, especially among previously less observant city residents. The vast majority of Muslim inhabitants (approximately 96 percent of the population) are of the Hanafi school of
There are 85 non-Muslim groups registered with the Department of Religious Affairs (DRA) at the Ministry of Culture. Approximately 200,000
Tajikistan's constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice; however, the government monitors the activities of religious institutions to keep them from becoming overtly political or espousing "extremist tendencies," and some local administrative offices have interpreted the term "secular state" to require a government bias against religion.
The Law of the Republic of Tajikistan "On Religion and Religious Organizations" was established December 1, 1994, and amended in 1997. The law provides the right of individuals to choose and change their religion and practice their religion of choice. The law also protects the right of individuals to proselytize. The law protects religious freedom, but in practice the government, including the Tajikistan justice system, does not always rigorously enforce the law in a nondiscriminatory fashion.
According to the Law "On Religion and Religious Organizations," religious communities must be registered by the Department for Religious Affairs. In November 2006 the Government dissolved the State Committee on Religious Affairs (SCRA) and established the Department for Religious Affairs (DRA) within the Ministry of Culture. The former head of the SCRA is now a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Culture. The official justification for registration is to ensure that religious groups act in accordance with the law; however, some religious groups alleged that the practical purpose is to ensure that they do not become overtly political. To register with the DRA, a national religious group must submit a charter, a list of at least 10 members, and evidence of local government approval of the location of a house of worship, if one exists. Religious groups are not required to have a physical structure in order to register, but they cannot hold regular meetings without one. Individual believers—up to 10 persons—do not have to register with the DRA in order to worship privately.
The DRA and local authorities share responsibility for the registration of neighborhood
There were no cases of the DRA permanently denying registration to religious groups in recent years. There were no reports of groups declining to apply for registration out of a belief that it would not be granted; however, the DRA rejected some applications on technical grounds, stalling registration. There were isolated cases of local government refusal to register religious groups in their areas, such as in the city of Tursonzade, where the DRA demanded local registration for a branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses in addition to their national registration.
The country has 2,842 registered mosques for daily prayers. This represents a decline from 2,885 registered mosques in 2006; however, the DRA claimed that it did not officially close any mosques during the reporting period. So-called "Friday mosques" (larger facilities built for weekly Friday prayers) must be registered with the DRA. There are 262 such mosques registered, not including Ismaili places of worship. Only one such mosque is authorized per 15,000 residents in a given geographic area. Many observers contend that this is discriminatory because no such rule exists for other religious groups.
There are 19
The law does not prohibit parents teaching religious beliefs to their own children in the privacy of their homes, but restrictions exist that prohibit homeschooling children outside of the family.
President Rahmon continued to strongly defend "secularism," a politicized term that carries the strong connotation of being "anti-extremist" rather than "nonreligious." In national speeches the President cautioned against outsiders unfairly linking Islam to terrorism. While the vast majority of citizens consider themselves Muslim, there is a significant fear of Islamic extremism, both within the government and among the population at large.
A 1999 constitutional amendment permits religiously based political parties, although a 1998 law specifying that parties may not receive support from religious institutions remains in effect. Two representatives from a religiously oriented party, the
An executive decree generally prohibits government publishing houses from publishing anything in Arabic script; however, some have done so in special cases if they presented the material for review prior to printing. They generally do not publish religious literature in general, but have done so on occasion, including producing copies of the Qur'an. There is no legal restriction on the distribution or possession of the Qur'an, the Bible, or other religious works; however, in practice the government restricts distribution of Christian literature. There are no reported restrictions on the religious-oriented press. The IRPT distributes four publications and an Iranian news agency broadcasts a weekly radio program.
The new draft religion law introduced by the SCRA in January 2006 was distributed domestically for review but had not been sent to Parliament. The law entitled "On Freedom of Conscience, on Religious Associations and Other [Religious] Organizations," would replace the current law on religion and add restrictions, such as increasing to 400 the number of petition signatures required to form a religious association; prohibiting religious education in private houses; prohibiting proselytizing; prohibiting religious associations from participating in political activities; and prohibiting political parties from having a religion-based ideology (which would effectively forbid the IRPT). On June 28, 2007 representatives of 22 minority religious groups, including Baha'is, Catholics, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, Pentecostals and other Protestant denominations, signed an open letter to the President and Parliament expressing concern that the draft law would effectively outlaw minority religious groups in the country.
The Tajikistan government issued a textbook to high schools in 2005 on the history of Islam, and a course on the history of religions is taught in public schools at the 10th grade level. Observers have interpreted such government-imposed instruction as a way of controlling religious indoctrination. President Rahmon also declared that the Islamic University would be funded by the state, and the curriculum would include science and math.
The Government bans the extremist Islamist political organization
Although the DRA has not refused any religious group registration, it has declined to accept some applications, citing missing documentation or other technicalities. Some religious groups[
Although the DRA reports it did not close any registered mosques or prayer rooms during this reporting period and was no longer pursuing a registration campaign, the media reports that authorities closed down several unregistered prayer groups, mosques, and madrassahs[
The local government of Tursonzade continued to use administrative barriers to prevent the registration of a place of worship for the Jehovah's Witnesses, in spite of their national registration and DRA efforts on their behalf[
The DRA controls participation in the Hajj and imposes restrictions on pilgrims ("hajjis"). Tajikistan require air travel for the Hajj and controls local tour operators, citing hygiene and safety concerns as reasons for limiting other means of travel. Hajjis are required to register with the DRA and deposit $2,500 (8,625 Tajik Somoni) prior to departure. In 2007, the DRA apparently lifted the previous quota limit of 3,500 citizen hajjis; as a result, 4,622 citizens participated in the Hajj in 2007, compared with 3,450 in 2006 and 4,072 in 2005, out of the overall quota of 6,000 hajjis that the Saudis allocated.
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A 2004 Council of Ulamo
In early 2007 the Minister of Education declared that in accordance with a new dress code for all public educational institutions, girls would not be permitted to wear the
There were no further reports of local government officials prohibiting Muslim women from having their photographs taken for an internal identification document while wearing the hijab[
Law enforcement officials continue to remove children found attending mosques during the day[
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and in at least one incident stopped the militia from rounding up the children by blocking the police van[
Missionaries of registered religious groups are not restricted by law, and they continue to proselytize openly. Missionaries are not particularly welcome in some local communities, and some religious groups experience harassment in response to their evangelical activities. There have been no reports of visa restrictions for Muslim missionaries.[
On July 13, 2006, Murodullo Davlatov, the former Chairman of the SCRA and now the Deputy Minister of Culture responsible for the DRA, stated publicly that the committee would scrutinize
The "ban" on printing in
Authorities in Isfara continue to restrict private Arabic language schools (including those giving private Islamic instruction)[
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Tajikistan government has attempted to restrict the influence of two popular Islamic scholars[
Tajikistan does not have a comprehensive strategy regarding
The Dushanbe city government filed charges against the Grace Sun Min Church and ordered a court hearing. The city government alleges that a piece of property owned by the church does not meet architectural standards[
On April 2, 2007, Dushanbe city government officials shut down a religious celebration of Jehovah's Witnesses that more than 1,000 people attended. The officials prohibited the group from organizing in large numbers without permission from the local government.[
The land dispute over Dushanbe's only synagogue remains unresolved, and the partially destroyed building still functioned as a
Tajikistan's government reported that 61 persons were detained and convicted as HT members in 2006. HT members can receive a sentence of up to 12 years in prison. Some speculated that the government used the HT label to arrest its opposition, including members of the intelligentsia and teachers.
Tajikistan temporarily detained and questioned members of various Christian denominations on several occasions before 2007. Government officials accused some Tajiks of betraying Islam after converting to Christianity. During the interrogations, government officials verbally harassed and threatened the Christians. On two separate occasions in April and May 2007, government officials allegedly beat a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses they had brought in for questioning.
In 2006, local authorities in
Kairokkum from the Ministry of Interior, the prosecutor's office, and the State Committee on National Security temporarily detained and interrogated two
On December 6, 2006, the Khujand City Court convicted IRPT member Mukhtorjon Shodiev and sentenced him to nine months in prison for inciting violence and calling for an overthrow of the Tajikistan government. Shodiev and the IRPT argued that the charges were false and politically motivated.
On July 26, 2006, the Tursonzade City Court convicted and issued a fine to a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses for conducting religious education without a permit. The witness maintained that she was having a private Bible discussion with another adult in her home. The case rose to the Supreme Court, which upheld the city court's decision on September 13, 2006 and ordered the witness to pay a fine of $29 (100 Tajik Somonis).
On May 4, 2006 IRPT member Sadullo Marupov fell from the third story of a police station in Isfara, a town in the northern
In contrast to previous years, more recently (up to 2007) there have been no reports of arrests of high-profile Muslims.
Gradually officials have suspended 2001 prohibitions on the use of loudspeakers by mosques issued by the mayor's office in Dushanbe. The prohibitions apparently were not based on any central directive. Dushanbe city authorities permitted mosques to use loudspeakers, provided the sound was directed towards the interior of the mosque. Mosques in the Sughd and Khatlon regions openly used loudspeakers directed away from the mosque for the daily call to prayer without facing prosecution.
During the reporting period, women were increasingly permitted to be photographed for official identification while wearing the hijab, particularly to participate on the Hajj. Some women were also able to attend mosque without being detained or prosecuted.
Tajikistan also relaxed the "ban" on printing in Arabic script by government publishing houses. The government permitted the printing of materials presented to the director of the publishing house, if submitted for review prior to printing, and deemed to be non-threatening.