KHUJAND, Tajikistan -- Tajik authorities have suspended teaching at four higher education Islamic schools in the northern part of the country, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
On August 8, an official from the Directorate of Religious Affairs in Sughd Province told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that the management at the madrasahs failed to reregister their schools as required by a new law on religion.
He added that the teachers at the madrasahs in the Asht, Jabbor Rasulov, Maschoh, and Maschohi Kuhi districts do not provide the requisite religious education and the madrasah buildings also do not conform to state standards.
Students at the four schools were admitted after studying for nine or 11 years at state schools. After a three-year course of study they obtain a bachelor's degree in Islamic theology.
Sadullo Mirahmadov, the chairman of the Asht madrasah, said on August 8 that he was ordered to close the school because the building is too old.
He said he hopes to find new premises soon so his 75 students can continue their studies.
Some experts, however, said closing madrasahs is a further step in the government's policy to curtail religious activities.
They recall that last year authorities brought home hundreds of Tajik students studying at Islamic universities and madrasahs in various countries.
In addition, the law on parental responsibilities signed last week by President Emomali Rahmon bans most people under the age of 18 from praying in mosques.
Muhammadrahim Abdumannonov, a Khujand-based expert on Tajik social issues, said he does not think that policy will yield positive results because Islam teaches young people ethical and moral norms.
He said if young people do not receive such a basic education in morality, they may end up joining extremist or terrorist groups.
Authorities in Sughd Province closed down three illegal madrasahs earlier this year and launched an administrative investigation into personnel at the schools.