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Tajikistan Readies Plan To Control Islamic Study Abroads

Homegrown Islamic studies at a madrasah in Gisar, Tajikistan
DUSHANBE -- The Tajik Culture Ministry is preparing tighter controls for allowing Tajiks to study at Islamic universities and madrasahs abroad, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Idibek Ziyoev, the head of the ministry's religion department, told RFE/RL that hundreds of young Tajiks go unregistered to such foreign schools because the country doesn't sign bilateral agreements to coordinate the flow of Tajiks who attend Islamic schools.

He said such measures would be forthcoming, without providing details.

Ziyoev said there are no reliable statistics on the number of Tajiks who are studying at Islamic schools abroad and officials fear a lack of control over the process could lead to some students joining hard-line Islamic groups.

Abdujalol Alizoda, the head of the pro-government Tajik Islamic Institute, told RFE/RL that some students who have graduated from foreign religious schools have returned to Tajikistan with fundamentalist Islamic theories, which he said are held by members of the Salafiya branch of Islam.

He said this can cause religious confrontation within Tajik families, most of whom practice the Hanafi version of Islam.

Tajik officials are reported to be especially concerned by students who study Islam in unofficial or semiofficial madrasahs in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Some such schools are blamed for spreading extremism that then gets reimported to students' home countries.

But Amrullo Nizom, who studied at an Islamic school in Pakistan, told RFE/RL that such concerns by the government are unjustified.

Another Tajik who studied at a Saudi Islamic university said young Tajiks will continue to travel to foreign religious schools because the schools in Tajikistan are too poor and only teach Islam in a manner approved by the government.