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Roving Periscope: Now, Tajikistan bans women’s hijab, and ‘alien garments’

Roving Periscope: Now, Tajikistan bans women’s hijab, and ‘alien garments’

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: The “Arab Spring”, which commenced in Tunisia in 2010 and quickly spread to many Islamic countries against fundamentalism and their monarchies, and forced some Muslim countries to introduce a whiff of freedoms, may now be flowering in the third season.

Drawing lessons from Saudi Arabia introducing liberties, and Iranian women fighting against the veil, the central Asian nation Tajikistan has passed a law banning hijab and other “alien garments,” that indicate “Islamic extremism,” the media reported on Friday.

Moreover, the landlocked country has also banned children from celebrating the Islamic festivals to ensure “their proper education and safety.”

Tajikistan, with a population of nearly 10 million, is a predominantly Islamic country most of whose people follow the Sunni Hanafi school. A small percentage of Muslims are also Ismaili Shias, located primarily in the Pamirs. The Christian minority was mainly Russian, most of whom left the country after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The former Soviet Republic’s Majlisi Namoyandagon, the lower chamber of parliament, passed the new bill on May 8, primarily focusing on banning hijab and other traditional Islamic clothing. On June 19, the upper chamber, Majlisi Milli, also passed it, enabling the government to implement the legislation that prohibits “alien garments.

It even bans children’s festivities during two major Islamic holidays—Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha—to ensure “proper education and safety during Ramadan and Eid-al-Adha.”

According to the Majlisi Milli press center, during the session, the members supported changes to Tajikistan’s laws concerning holidays, cultural practices, the role of teachers in children’s upbringing, and parental duties.

The reason for banning women’s hijab and other ‘alien garments’ was because these imports from the Middle East were linked to “Islamic extremists.”

Any violation of the law, including by individuals, companies, government officials, and religious leaders, would be punishable with progressively hefty fines.

After years of unofficial restrictions, Tajikistan has now officially banned the Islamic hijab. The Tajik government started cracking down on the hijab in 2007 when the Ministry of Education prohibited both Islamic attire and Western-style miniskirts for students.

This ban was later expanded to include all public institutions, with some organizations requiring their employees and visitors to remove their headscarves.

Local authorities formed special teams to enforce this informal ban, and police even conducted raids in markets to apprehend people breaking the rule. However, officials have denied multiple reports from women who claimed they were stopped on the street and fined for wearing the hijab, the media reported.

Since 2017, the Tajik government promoted traditional Tajik clothing through a campaign. It sent text messages to millions of women urging them to wear Tajik national clothes and emphasized the importance of respecting these outfits. In 2018, it released a 376-page manual titled “The Guidebook Of Recommended Outfits In Tajikistan,” which detailed appropriate attire for various occasions.

Besides, Tajikistan has informally discouraged men from wearing bushy beards. Reports indicate that thousands of men have been forcibly stopped by police over the past decade and had their beards shaved off against their will.

In March 2024, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon said, “Xenophobia in clothing, i.e. wearing foreign clothes with fake names and hijab, is another pressing issue for our society.”


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