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Islamic Nation Tajikistan bans Hijab and restricts Eid customs

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Islamic Nation Tajikistan has prohibited the use of hijab (Arabic headcover for women), terming it an “alien garment”. Tajikistan has also banned ‘Idi’, the custom of children seeking money during Eid. The move to prohibit the hijab in the Central-Asian nation is the latest in a series of measures by the government to promote a secular national identity.

With around 10 million Muslims, more than 96% of the Republic of Tajikistan follows various sects of Islam.

On June 19, the 18th session of the Majlisi Milli, led by its chairman Rustam Emomali, was held. The bill was passed on May 8 by the lower chamber, the Majlisi Namoyandagon, and it primarily focuses on banning the hijab and other traditional Islamic clothing.

Terming the hijab as “an alien garment”, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon gave his assent to the bill to regulate and prohibit the Arabic veil, reported AKIpress, the Bishkek-based news agency.

The new law also includes hefty fines for offenders, ranging from eight thousand to 65 thousand somoni, which is equivalent to Rs 60,560 and Rs 5 lakh. Government officials and religious authorities, who fail to abide by the new laws, face much higher fines of the equivalent of Rs 3 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively, reported the Tajik agency Asia-Plus News.

The President of the Central-Asian nation, Emomali Rahmon, also signed laws prohibiting ‘overspending’ and the custom of Idi, associated with Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Nowruz festivals, said the report.

The head of the Religion Committee, Sulaiman Davlatzoda, told Tajikistan’s Radio Ozodi, that the reason for the ban Idi, a children’s custom, was to ensure “proper education and ensuring their safety during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha”.

The press release by the Tajik President said the move aimed to ‘protect ancestral values ​​and national culture”. This development follows years of an unofficial ban in Tajikistan, whose President called the hijab a “foreign clothing” in an address in March.

A move that has been met with widespread criticism from human rights organisations and Muslim advocacy groups, is the latest in a series of measures by the Tajik government to promote a secular national identity.

Throughout the unofficial ban, the Rahmon regime had long been critical of the hijab, viewing it as a threat to the country’s cultural heritage and a symbol of foreign influence.

In 2015, President Emomali Rahmon launched a campaign against the hijab, stating that it was a sign of poor education and incivility.

The clampdown on the hijab began in 2007 when the Tajik Education Ministry banned both Islamic clothing and Western-style miniskirts for students. The ban was eventually extended to all public institutions.

This comes even as the government’s campaign to promote the Tajik national dress, including through automated phone calls.

Several Muslim-majority countries, including Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, have banned the burqa and hijab in public schools and universities or for government officials.

What is the punishment?
Lawmakers also agreed on new changes to the rules for breaking the law, which include large fines for those who break them. The rules did not previously list wearing a hijab or other religious clothing as something citizens can’t do.

Radio Ozodi reported on May 23, that the Tajikistan authorities decided that the fines for people who break these rules would be different for different entities.

Individuals could get fines as high as 7,920 somonis, while companies could get fined up to 39,500 somonis. Government officials and religious leaders might have to pay even more if they’re found guilty, with fines reaching 54,000 somonis for officials and 57,600 somonis for religious leaders.

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