Authorities in Tajikistan are trying their best to eradicate conservative Islam — termed as “foreign” influence — from their Muslim-majority country. With the advent of Islamic State in Middle East, the government’s concerns are understandable, but their endeavors seem to be lacking one essential element: logic.
As it turns out, the police in Tajikistan shaved nearly 13,000 men with “long and unkempt beards” and closed more than 160 shops selling traditional Muslim clothing in 2015, to curb radicalization.
As Al Jazeera reported, the police chief in the southwest province of Khathlon, Bahrom Sharifzoda, recently revealed that law enforcement services managed to convince more than 1,700 women and young girls to discontinue covering their heads with scarves. They have also arrested more than 180 hijab-wearing prostitutes during their campaign.
Moreover, the Tajik parliament is also trying to ban marriages between first cousins along with Arabic-sounding names. The officials in the former Soviet republic have also been “working overtime” to supervise everyday life in Tajikistan to ensure that it falls in line with the government’s idea of traditional values — in other words, they want to make certain there is no spillover of “unwelcome” traditions from neighboring country, Afghanistan.
Last year in December, Tajikistan's Supreme Court also banned its registered Islamic political party, Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, after months of violence. Around the same time, the country’s parliament also granted the president and his family lifelong immunity from prosecution, deeming Rahmon “Leader of the nation.” They also officially designated him “the founder of peace and national unity of Tajikistan.”
With more than 2,000 Tajiks currently fighting in Syria — according to unofficial estimates — the fears of radicalization in the country, which considers itself a secular state, are not unreasonable. But shaving people’s beards off is not the right way to go about it either. Apart from the fact that facial hair tends to grow back, the government should realize that it’s the attitude that counts. The same goes for prohibiting women from covering themselves up, which seems more like a human rights violation than anything else.
Tajikistan, a country of more than 7 million people, has struggled with poverty and instability ever since its independence more than two decades ago and the majority of locals still leave for Russia to work.
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