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Tajikistan officially bans hijab and Eid custom to promote secular identity 



Tajikistan officially bans hijab and Eid custom to promote secular identity

In a decisive move, the Tajikistan government has formally banned the wearing of the hijab, an Arabic headcover for women, deeming it an “alien garment”. This recent legislation marks the culmination of years of unofficial curbs on religious clothing in the Muslim-majority Central-Asian nation. Alongside the hijab ban, the government has also outlawed the custom of ‘Idi,’ where children seek money during Eid festivities. 

Tajikistan, home to approximately 10 million Muslims, with more than 96% of its population following various sects of Islam, has seen its government taking steps to promote a secular national identity. The new law imposes hefty fines on those who violate these rules, ranging from eight thousand to 65 thousand Somoni (Rs 60,560 to Rs. 5 lakh). Government officials and religious authorities face even steeper penalties, up to Rs. 5 lakh. 

President Emomali Rahmon, who has been in power for over two decades, signed the new laws, which also target ‘overspending’ during celebrations and the custom of Idi associated with Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Nowruz festivals. The head of the Religion Committee, Sulaiman Davlatzoda, justified the ban on Idi by citing the need for “proper education and ensuring children’s safety during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha”. 

The government’s press release stated that these measures aim to “protect ancestral values and national culture.” This development follows years of an unofficial ban on the hijab, with President Rahmon labeling it as “foreign clothing” in a speech earlier this year. His regime has consistently viewed the hijab as a threat to Tajikistan’s cultural heritage and a symbol of foreign influence. 

In 2015, Rahmon launched a campaign against the hijab, associating it with poor education and incivility. The crackdown on Islamic attire began in 2007 when the Tajik Education Ministry banned both Islamic clothing and Western-style miniskirts for students, eventually extending the prohibition to all public institutions. Concurrently, the government has been promoting the traditional Tajik national dress, even employing automated phone calls to spread this message. 

Human rights organizations and Muslim advocacy groups have widely criticized the new ban, viewing it as an infringement on religious freedom. However, Tajikistan is not alone in its stance. Other Muslim-majority countries, such as Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, have implemented similar bans on the burqa and hijab in public schools, universities, or for government officials. 

This latest legislation in Tajikistan reflects the ongoing struggle between maintaining cultural heritage and adapting to modern, secular identities in the region. Despite the criticism, the Rahmon administration appears committed to enforcing these new laws as part of its broader agenda to shape a secular national identity.