DUSHANBE-- A Tajik education official has announced that schoolchildren will for the first time be required to take course on Islam, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Mahmud Shoev, the chief of the Tajik Education Ministry's textbook editing and printing department, said the ministry will present a new textbook before school starts on September 1 called "Knowledge of Islam."
The ministry will also provide instruction for teachers who will be teaching the subject, adding that some 400 history and literature teachers have been invited to Dushanbe for special classes on the subject.
Shoev said schoolchildren in the 8th grade will take the class, with 34 classroom hours devoted to the subject.
Shoev noted that the main topics of the book are the history of Islam, the life of Prophet Muhammad, and the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifa, founder of the main Islamic sect in Tajikistan.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has on several occasions ordered the Education Ministry to add an Islamic history course to the school curriculum in an effort, he said, to avoid an increase in the number of young people joining extremist groups and to improve the knowledge of Islam among the country's population.
Abdujalol Alizoda, the rector of Tajikistan's Islamic University, said he hopes that students who graduate from his university can teach Islamic history in schools.
But Sayid Umar Husayni, a representative of the Islamic Renaissance Party, noted that Tajikistan's Islamic scholars were not invited to the working group which created the new textbook.