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Tajikistan Parliament Bans Hijab and Alien Garments

Tajikistan has officially banned the wearing of the hijab and other Islamic clothing deemed “foreign.” The decision was made by President Emomali Rahmon.

Tajikistan Parliament Bans Hijab and Alien Garments

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On June 19, 2024, the upper house of Tajikistan’s parliament, the Majlisi Milli approved a bill that bans the hijab and other Islamic clothing. The lower house, the Majlisi Namoyandagon had passed the bill earlier on May 8, 2024.

The law amends the existing “On Regulation of Holidays and Ceremonies” to include restrictions on the “import, sale, promotion and wearing of clothing deemed foreign to the national culture.”

This primarily targets the hijab, a traditional Islamic headscarf worn by Muslim women along with other garments associated with Islamic traditions.

The law imposes hefty fines for violations. Individual offenders could face fines of up to 7,920 somonis (approximately $747), while companies permitting employees to wear banned garments may be fined 39,500 somonis ($3,724).

Government officials and religious leaders could face even steeper penalties ranging from 54,000 to 57,600 somonis ($4,800-$5,100).

President Emomali Rahmon has been in power since 1994, making him one of the longest-serving leaders in Central Asia.

He initially rose during Tajikistan’s turbulent post-Soviet period, positioning himself against religious political factions.

Rahmon’s administration has promoted secularism and sought to minimize the public display of religious practices.

This stance is rooted in his early political alignment with Soviet-era secular policies and a desire to maintain a firm grip on power by limiting potential challenges from religiously motivated political movements.

Although around 90% of Tajikistan’s population is Muslim, Rahmon has repeatedly referred to the hijab as “foreign clothing,” arguing that it does not align with Tajik cultural traditions.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been an increase in religious observance in Tajikistan.

New mosques have been built, more people are engaging in Islamic studies and Islamic-style clothing has become more common.

The Tajik government has expressed concerns about the potential for radical Islamic influences from neighboring Afghanistan.

The influx of Islamic clothing from the Middle East is viewed by authorities as a sign of increasing extremism.

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The campaign against religious clothing in Tajikistan is not new. In 2007, a law was passed to regulate holidays and ceremonies, which included prohibitions on Islamic clothing and Western-style attire like miniskirts. This banned the hijab for students and in public institutions.

In 2015, Rahmon intensified efforts against the hijab, calling it a sign of poor education. By 2017, the government launched a campaign to promote traditional Tajik attire through automated phone calls and released a handbook in 2018 titled “The Guidebook Of Recommended Outfits In Tajikistan,” which dictated acceptable clothing styles, materials and colors.

Authorities have also taken direct actions against perceived symbols of Islamic extremism such as forcibly shaving men with bushy beards, which are often associated with conservative Islamic practices.

The legislation is beyond clothing, also prohibiting the traditional children’s custom of collecting money during Eid celebrations (known locally as “Idi”).

Tajikistan has had an unofficial ban on Islamic attire and bushy beards for many years. The new law formalizes these restrictions. In 2007, the Education Ministry banned Islamic clothing and Western-style miniskirts for students.

In 2015, President Emomali Rahmon launched a campaign against the hijab, labeling it as a symbol of poor education and incivility.

The government has been encouraging the wearing of traditional Tajik attire to promote a national identity separate from Islamic influences.

In 2017, the government sent automated phone messages to citizens urging women to wear Tajik national dress.

The law also targets Eid celebrations specifically the custom where children go door-to-door collecting money.

This practice has been part of Tajik culture for generations. The government justified the ban on the grounds of ensuring children’s safety and proper education during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha.

Other countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan have also implemented bans on Islamic clothing in certain contexts.

Tajikistan is a Muslim-majority country with over 96% of its population adhering to Islam. The country shares a border with Afghanistan, a nation with Islamic influence, particularly under the Taliban regime. This proximity has influenced Tajikistan’s internal policies towards religious expression.

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