The new law on religion is not even adopted in Tajikistan yet but supernumerary mosques are being liquidated
Tajik lawmakers will consider amendments to the law "On freedom of conscience, religious associations, and other organizations" in a couple of weeks. The amendments will restrict religious freedom.
The new legislation will reduce the number of mosques in the country and put official registration out of reach for most confessions. Opponents of the regime maintain that the amendments to the acting legislation were drafted behind the scenes. "The legislation is being drafted anonymously," theologian Ibodullo Kalonzoda told Forum 18 news agency.
The amended law will prohibit instruction of children under 7 years in religious matters along with all forms of religious education at home. Representatives of Christian and other religious organizations (non-traditional for Tajikistan) addressed the president this June conveying their conviction that the amended law was going to undermine the constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The letter to the president stated that "the draft law sets impossible requirements for registration of religious minorities, both already existing and new ones, and therefore compels believers to worship illegally which may eventually lead to repressions and harassment."
Non-traditional religions were correct to be upset. The draft law forbids missionary activity in all forms. On the other hand, the amended legislation may affect Moslems too.
The faithful are worried because the draft law stipulates a reduction of the number of mosques in the country. For some inexplicable reason, authors of the legislation are convinced that one mosque per 20,000 residents of rural areas and 30,000 city dwellers is just the ticket. The requirements are even stiffer for Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan (one mosque per 60,000 residents).
There are 28 officially functioning mosques in Dushanbe, and the law insists on leaving only 16 of them. Local Moslem leaders claim in the meantime that not even all 28 mosques can accommodate even half of the faithful who turn up for Friday prayer. [Friday is a sacred day for Moslems, the fact that explains importance of the Friday namaz or prayer - Ferghana.Ru]
Dushanbe city fathers would not even be bothered to wait for the new law. All sorts of inspections have been under way since March. Several mosques were closed. Mayor of Dushanbe Ubaidulloyev ordered examination of all public places in the capital. Dushanbe hukumat or administration discussed the matter the other day. It was pointed out at the meeting that examination and inspection of mosques was to be arranged on the request from their imam-hatibs on the basis of the acting legislation and specifically the law "On traditions, celebrations, and rites" initiated by the president.
Unofficial estimates put the number of mosques in Dushanbe alone at over 3,000. Nearly 90% of them function without state registration.
Dushanbe hukumat officials say that thee whole campaign is expected to restore order in the use of public places in the capital of Tajikistan. The examination will continue until August 25.
The municipal prosecutor's office claims that some public places initially intended for celebrations and other similar events are used for worship.
Insiders tell Ferghana.Ru that five mosques were liquidated in Sino district of the Tajik capital alone. (In March, Regnum news agency reported liquidation of 57 mosques there.) Clashes are reported in Dushanbe between representatives of the local authorities and the population enraged by the mosque closing campaign.
Dushanbe authorities banned the use of PA systems in mosques to call the faithful to prayer. Students are no longer permitted to wear religious clothes.
Striving for tighter control over religious life of the population, the government means to restrict the influence wielded by radical Islam and particularly by Hizb-ut-Takhrir, an outlawed religious party gaining popularity in the country. On the other hand, this anti-clerical policy clearly upsets moderate and apolitical Moslems. Pressure applied by the state may compel them to worship in secrecy and become offenders.