Happy Ramadan, Tajikistan, But Keep Your Children out of Mosques
Some might find the timing a little offensive. On the second day of the holy month of Ramadan, Tajikistan’s president has banned children from entering mosques. Ignoring resistance from the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT), human rights groups and the United States, Rakhmon signed the law -- which breezed through Tajikistan’s two rubber-stamp chambers of parliament -- on August 2, Dushanbe’s Asia-Plus news agency reported.Rakhmon has overseen a risky set of measures to stem the rising influence of Islam lately. As The Economist recently argued, “driving believers underground” is not the most logical way to combat faith:
Late last year Mr Rakhmon’s government stepped up a campaign to close unregistered mosques, while making it almost impossible for new mosques to register, even though government officials write the sermons. Then he ordered thousands of students of Islam abroad to return home, without offering them an alternative once they arrived. This spring police took to harassing bearded men on the streets. A professional footballer was told to shave or get off the team.
Rakhmon continues his crusade. During a July 22 speech, the president warned that if Tajik children study Islam abroad, “the majority of them will become terrorists,” state television reported. Future clerics don't have much of a choice, then. The new law also requires children to study at secular schools. Though the president hasn’t outlined how he will control what they learn outside of school, many believers expect fear is part of his calculation.