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Tajik Religious Figure Slams Bill Banning Kids From Mosques

Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda

Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda

DUSHANBE -- A prominent Tajik religious leader and former deputy prime minister has criticized a parental-responsibilities law as being "openly against the will of God," RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The legislation, which was submitted to parliament by President Emomali Rahmon and approved by the lower house of parliament on June 15, bans children under the age of 18 from attending prayers in mosques.

It must still be approved by the upper house and signed by the president before going into effect.

Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda told RFE/RL that under the legislation, parents whose underage children are caught attending prayers would be held legally responsible for allowing them to do so.

Turajonzoda also criticized an amendment to Tajikistan's criminal code approved by parliament on June 15 that makes the opening of illegal religious schools punishable by between five and 12 years in jail.

Previously, running such illegal schools incurred only an administrative punishment or a fine.

During parliamentary debate on June 15, Education Minister Abdujabbor Rahmonov reminded deputies that the draft ban on kids in mosques proposed by Rahmon was published several months ago for public discussion.

Only two parliament deputies -- both from the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan of which Turajonzoda is a former deputy chairman -- criticized the draft law and opposed it.

The authorities are increasingly concerned about young people coming under the influence of religious extremists.

More than 1,200 young Tajiks were constrained to abandon their studies at Islamic universitites and madrasahs abroad after Rahmon "advised" their parents last summer that such students should return to Tajikistan to continue their education.