The Islamic Center of Tajikistan has criticized a recent video message by Tajik militants fighting with the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Iraq, calling for Tajiks in Syria and Iraq to return home and "wage jihad" in Tajikistan.
The Islamic Center of Tajikistan (ICT) is a religious institution responsible for the country's imams and is subordinate to the Tajik government. Its statement regarding Islamic State can therefore be seen as being in line with the position of the Tajik government.
In the statement published on January 7, the ICT asked, "How is it possible to wage jihad in a state whose population is 99 percent Muslim? With whom do they want to wage jihad?"
The statement went on to say that "for terrorists, it makes no difference if they [the population] are Muslims or not."
The video, released earlier this month, features an ethnic Tajik named as Abu Umariyon from the small town of Samsolik in the Nurobod district of Tajikistan's Rasht Valley. Abu Umariyon said that he and his fellow Tajik militants had approached the Islamic State group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and asked for permission to return home to fight in Tajikistan with the extremist group Ansarullah.
However, Baghdadi refused permission, saying that the Tajik militants "had to wait."
The ICT accused the Islamic State group of going against Islamic law.
"How can the so-called Islamic State organization talk about jihad when it violates the principles of Islamic Sharia law? By their actions they have proved themselves to be far from humanity and morality," the ICT said.
The ICT went on to say that the militants' "unclean thoughts about jihad in Tajikistan contradict the principles of Islam and the holy book, the Koran."
Tajik Militants in IS Videos
According to Edward Lemon from the UK's University of Exeter, who researches and tracks Tajik fighters in Syria and Iraq, 13 videos featuring Tajik militants fighting with the Islamic State group appeared on the Russian social networking site Odnoklassniki in December.
Abu Umariyon appears in some of these videos. In one, he calls on militants in Central Asian groups Jundallah and Ansarullah to join the Islamic State group.
According to Lemon, the videos bring the number of documented Tajik fighters in Syria to over 60.
Officials in Tajikistan have put the number of Tajiks fighting in Syria at between 200 and 300.
The State Committee for the National Security of Tajikistan said in November that there are around 300 Tajik citizens fighting in Syria.
However, the Tajik Interior Ministry has said that some 200 Tajiks are fighting in Syria and that around 50 had been killed there.
-- Joann Paraszczuk