Mullahs and imams in Tajikistan have been asked by the country's president to dress "appropriately" -- to wear a suit and tie when necessary, and trim and wash their beards.
Speaking at a conference in Dushanbe on February 26 attended by religious leaders and scholars, President Emomali Rahmon said religious figures should not appear in public, including in mosques, with untrimmed, bushy beards and wearing "scruffy" clothes.
The president personally criticized two high-ranking religious leaders, including the head of the country's Council of Islamic Ulama, who were present at the conference, for the "appalling state" of their clothes that "tarnish the country's image."
"What is this you're wearing?" asked Rahmon pointing to the modest, long overcoat worn by the head of the council. "As if you don't have enough money to wear something more suitable."
The president's remarks have been welcomed by many Tajiks, including his critics among religious circles.
"Nothing is wrong with wearing a suit and tie, even in mosques," said Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda, a prominent religious leader. "Just put on a light overcoat on top of your suit during prayers."
It's not the first time Tajik officials have advised people about what to wear. (It's also happening in neighboring Uzbekistan
The Islamic hijab has come under attack
in Tajikistan over the past two years, and the authorities are pushing women to wear traditional garb.
What's not clear is whether this is another attempt by the Tajik government to rein in the clerics or just the fastidiousness of the ever unpredictable Rahmon.
-- Farangis Najibullah