On the Rise in Tajikistan, Islam Worries an Authoritarian Government

Posted: January 14, 2012 in Language, Politics, Religion, Tajikistan
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After decades of enforced secularism, the people of this impoverished former Soviet republic have been flocking to their traditional religion with all the zeal of born-again movements anywhere in the world.

The authoritarian government here could not be more worried. Spooked by the specter of Islamic radicalism and the challenges posed by increasingly influential religious leaders, the Tajik authorities have been working fervently to curb religious expression.

Bearded men have been detained at random, and women barred from religious services. This year, the government demanded that students studying religion at universities in places like Egypt, Syria and Iran return home. The police have shuttered private mosques and Islamic Web sites, and government censors now monitor Friday sermons, stepping in when muftis stray from the government line.

Last month, lawmakers took what many here said was a drastic step further: they passed a law that would, among other things, bar children younger than 18 from attending religious services at mosques.

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