Tajikistan Bans Hijabs in Bid To Preserve Country’s ‘Cultural Heritage’

Islamic groups say the law violates religious freedom.

Getty Images
A woman wears a hijab. Getty Images

A new law will change the hijab and other Islamic practices across Tajikistan with President Rahmon labeling the head covering as an “alien garment.”

The regulation has not pleased many pro-Muslim groups, who argue it violates their religious freedom.

The Tajik parliament passed the bill on Friday in an effort to preserve the national culture, with Mr. Rahmon’s regime viewing it as a “threat to the country’s cultural heritage and a symbol of foreign influence,” India Today reported

The new bill also curbs children’s participation in Muslim festivities associated with the important Islamic holidays of Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Ahda, Morocco World News reported

The Council on American-Islamic Relations quickly condemned the bill’s passage, citing religious freedom concerns, declaring the regulation “repressive,” and calling for its reversal.

“Banning the hijab is a violation of religious freedom and such bans on religious attire should have no place in any nation that respects the rights of its people,” the council’s Research and Advocacy Director said in a statement.

The law’s final approval also means that the 10 million Tajiki Muslims, who form 96 percent of the population, will risk a fine between $780 and $6,200 if caught wearing a hijab, according to the Indian news organization APB Live.

Government officials and religious leaders face a penalty of up to $28,000 if caught wearing or possessing the piece of clothing.

Traditional Tajik clothing is awash in color, and women often wear braids and a headdress, which may be a stark contrast to traditional Islamic clothing.

The Tajik Islamic party declared the ban against the interest of the majority of the population, and contradicts both constitutional and international law, Al Jazeera reported. The country may experience further backlash as the law is implemented.

Mr. Rahmon said in March that “Xenophobia in clothing, i.e. wearing foreign clothes with fake names and hijab, is another pressing issue for our society,” the Hindustan Times reported.

These women’s garments have been imported from the Middle East in recent years, but Tajik officials see them as Islamic extremist clothing. 

The government initially began to crack down on hijabs in 2007, when the country’s Ministry of Education banned this kind of Islamic attire and skirts in schools. The government later extended this ban to all public institutions.

Several Muslim-majority countries have already banned the burqa as well as the hijab for government officials, as well as in public schools and universities, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The New York Sun

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