Tajik Islamic party slams gov't over hijab ban

Tajikistan's Islamic party on Monday criticized a new ban on wearing Islamic head scarves in secular schools in this ex-Soviet republic as an "inadmissible" violation of civil rights. The Islamic Renaissance Party, or IRP, said in a statement that the ban, announced on Oct. 19, was "against the interests of the majority of Tajiks" and contradicted the constitution and international laws. It added that the ban "could provoke a negative public reaction." In announcing the ban, Education Minister Abdudjabor Rakhmonov said that wearing the hijab, or head scarf traditionally worn by Muslim women, and other religious symbols was "unacceptable" in secular schools and in violation of the constitution and education laws. Rakhmonov also expressed concern that pupils spent too much time in mosques at the expense of their education. Tajikistan is constitutionally a secular country, but more than 90 percent of its population are Muslims. It neighbors Afghanistan and has been troubled by religious extremism.