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"Another charitable and manly deed was performed in Dushanbe ... with the aim of fulfilling parents' fervent wishes and pleasing their children."

That's how Tajik television's First Channel announced the "circumcision party" organized this week by the president's youngest son, Rustam Emomali.

It is, of course, Islamic custom to circumcise young males, but Rustam's party was actually meant to set an example to the nation.

The television report noted that "collective circumcision parties are being organized in line with the law 'On regulating traditions, ceremonies, and ritual.'"

So the president's 23-year-old son was simply, according the report, "implementing directives and guidance of the head of state on holding collective circumcision parties and raising people's living standards."

Parents of the children, it was reported, "described this initiative as a lofty example of humanity."

Rustam does more than just organize circumcision parties.

Russia's Regnum news agency pointed out last November that "Rustam Emomali is a founder of and forward on the capital's Istiqol football team." The Regnum report was actually about the Istiqol club winning the country's football championship.

That’s probably not a big surprise to many people, since Regnum reported just a week earlier that Rustam had been named vice president of Tajikistan's football federation.

But Rustam is not really a professional organizer of circumcision parties or a professional football player. He is the head of Tajikistan's Customs Service department charged with countering smuggling and dealing with violations of customs regulations. That is a recent appointment and he had to relinquish his seat in the Dushanbe City Council on March 25 to take up the post.

Rustam has been mentioned as a possible successor to his father and his entry into politics has been interpreted as part of the script that sees him eventually rise to the top.

But on March 29 he was occupied elsewhere, treating 50 children to a day they won't soon forget, and as the television report noted, "special presents were given to all those lucky children during the circumcision party."

-- Bruce Pannier

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