Muslims pray in mosque 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Biraj)
DUSHANBE - Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon has banned youths from praying in mosques and churches, prompting a local Muslim leader to call the move "a gruesome gift" for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Rakhmon, in power since 1992, signed the bill on "parental responsibility" on Wednesday. He has said tough measures are needed to stop the spread of religious fundamentalism in his country of 7.5 million people, 98 percent of whom are Muslim.
All people under 18, except those studying at religious schools, are
banned from worshiping in the Central Asian nation's mosques, churches
or other religious sites, said the law which came into force on
It also bans girls from wearing jewelery except earrings and prohibits
people under 20 from getting tattoos, going to night clubs and watching
films or reading material which "disseminates pornography, violence,
extremism and terrorism".
It is not clear what the punishment is for breaking the ban.
"During the month of Ramadan and just a month before the 20th
anniversary of (Tajikistan's) independence, the authorities made a
gruesome present to all believers," prominent Muslim theologist Akbar
Turajonzoda told Reuters.
"Prior to the adoption of this law, the authorities had already become
too distant from their people and their needs, and now they turn this
gap into an abyss of estrangement."
Rakhmon, whose Moscow-backed secular government clashed with the
Islamist opposition during a 1992-97 civil war, has ignored requests
from the United States and European Union to respect the freedom of
Rakhmon, who enjoys vast powers in the poorest of the former Soviet
states, last year brought many Tajik students home from religious
schools abroad and clamped down on a growing trend for Islamic dress.
A total of 158 people were jailed for "religious extremism" in
Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan and China, in 2010, five times
more than in 2009.
"The president must have forgotten that the law of God is superior to
the earthly law," said Turajonzoda, a former opposition leader. "This is
why I doubt that under fear of fines young people will stop paying
respect to Allah by praying."