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Tajikistan: From Beards to Mosques, Dushanbe Cracking Down on Suspected Radicals

Men arrive for Friday prayers at the central Haji Yacoub Mosque in Dushanbe. (Photo: David Trilling)

A wide-ranging crackdown on religious freedom is underway in Tajikistan, with authorities closing mosques and harassing men with beards.

During the first 10 days of January, officials in the Tajik capital Dushanbe closed a mosque every day, local media outlets reported. Officials contend the mosques failed to register in accordance with legislation adopted in 2009. But imams insist that they tried to go through the registration process only to have their applications rejected for unspecified reasons.

The suddenness of the government’s action has left many mainstream believers confused and angry. Until authorities closed it in early January, Abdul Alizoda, 56, attended Friday prayers at a mosque near Dushanbe’s train station. “About 200 of us used to pray at the mosque every week. The imam was a good Muslim and never preached a radical message. For me, the mosque was a place to meet my friends and learn about Islam. I don’t understand why it has been closed,” he said.

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Tajikistan: From Beards to Mosques, Dushanbe Cracking Down on Suspected Radicals

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