25 March 2009, 15:46
U.S. governmental organization criticizes Tajik bill on religion
Dushanbe, March 25, Interfax - A bill on religion and religious associations approved by the Tajik parliament could seriously harm the rights of believers and make it virtually impossible for small non-Muslim religious groups to practice their religions in that country, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said in a statement.
The bill, which both chambers of the Tajik parliament have already passed, legitimates a "special role" of the Hanafi school in Sunni Islam, which is practiced by a majority in Tajikistan.
The bill has been sent to President Emomali Rahmon to be signed into law.
"If signed, the law will legalize harsh policies already adopted by the Tajik government against its majority Muslim population, including the closure of hundreds of mosques and limiting the religious education of children. Moreover, the law will impose state censorship on religious literature, restrict the conduct of religious rites to officially- approved places of worship and allow the state to control the activities of religious associations," USCIRF says in its statement.
"The picture for religious freedom in Tajikistan is growing dim," the statement quotes its chair, Felice Gaer, as saying.
"The passage of this problematic new law could severely limit religious freedoms in Tajikistan," she said.
The USCIRF mentioned other incidents involving minor faiths that have happened in Tajikistan recently, among them the ban of Jehovah's Witnesses in 2007, the demolition of the only synagogue in Tajikistan to clear the grounds for a new presidential palace in 2008, a ban on wearing the hijab, an Islamic head covering, at public schools and universities, etc.