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Tajikistan's New Religion Law Sparking Questions


Muhammadsharif Himmatzoda

Muhammadsharif Himmatzoda

Tajikistan's recently adopted law on religion is causing great controversy.

The preface of the law says that everybody in Tajikistan has a right to pray, follow any religion, and that every faith is equal. But it also states that Tajikistan is a secular state and the role of the Hanafi branch of Islam in the life of Tajiks must be taken into account.

A leading member of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party, Muhammadsharif Himmatzoda, questioned the law's preface in a recent article, saying the terms "secular state" and "role of the Islamic Hanafi branch" contradict each other.

Farukh Umarov, an analyst at the Presidential Center for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL that the law mentions the Hanafi branch to exclude such strict Islamic branches as Wahhabism and Salafism.

He added that the population of the Badakhshan region is predominantly Ismaili Shi'a, but that their number is small and they do not pose any threat to the country.

Islamic Renaissance Party deputy head Said Umar Husaini told RFE/RL that the law's clause allowing prayer only at mosques or in homes is the biggest restriction for followers of Hanafism.

He added that the Tajik government tried to promote pre-Islamic Zoroastrian values in the past but failed. Husaini says that now the authorities have turned to traditional Hanafism while simultaneously promoting secularism, but that such an approach is full of contradictions.

(by Fakhriddin Kholbekov in Dushanbe and Iskandar Aliev in Prague)

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