Tajikistan Approves Ban on Hijab and Islamic Garments

Tajikistan is poised to enforce a ban on the hijab and other Islamic garments, following the approval of a controversial law by its parliament. This legislation is expected to stir significant unrest among the predominantly Muslim population of the tightly controlled former Soviet republic, which borders Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The upper house, Majlisi Milli, passed the law on June 19, which also prohibits children’s festivities during Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as reported by US government-funded Radio Free Europe (RFE). Initially approved by the lower chamber, Majlisi Namoyandagon, on May 8, the bill aims to curb the wearing of what it describes as “alien garments.”

The ban on children’s celebrations is intended to ensure “proper education and safety” during religious holidays, according to Radio Ozodi, citing a head of the Religion Committee. During the 18th session of Parliament, chaired by President Rustam Emomali, changes to Tajikistan’s laws on cultural practices, the role of teachers in children’s upbringing, and parental duties were also endorsed.

Violating the new regulations can result in substantial fines. Individuals may be fined up to 7,920 somonis, while companies could face fines up to 39,500 somonis. Officials and religious leaders face even higher fines, potentially reaching 54,000 and 57,600 somonis, respectively. The legislation has sparked intense debate within the country’s predominantly Muslim population, with officials associating such attire with Islamic extremism. Radio Free Europe reports that this decision has led to condemnation from the Union of Islamic Scholars and declarations of “jihad” by some Afghan clerics. Religious figures, officials, university professors, and bloggers in Tajikistan have responded to these calls.

In 2017, President Rahmon established a special commission to create a “suitable” dress code for men and women after criticizing women for wearing “foreign” black attire. His comments targeted the increasing popularity of black Islamic dress in Tajikistan, despite previous criticisms dating back to 2015. This initiated a campaign against the hijab, with institutional leaders instructing employees to refrain from wearing it at work.

Tajikistan has a history of restricting the hijab, beginning with a Ministry of Education ban in 2007, initially targeting students and later expanding to all public institutions. Despite claims of enforcement through special teams and occasional police actions, officials deny widespread crackdowns reported by some women. In recent years, the Central Asian country has promoted traditional clothing through campaigns advocating for national attire. Initiatives included mass text messages encouraging the wearing of traditional Tajik outfits, culminating in the 2018 publication of a detailed guidebook on recommended attire.

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