Tajikistan Bans Hijab Despite 98% Muslim Population

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Tajikistan Bans Hijab Despite 98% Muslim Population

ABU DHABI:The recent inauguration of the BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights an interesting irony. This grand temple stands in the Muslim-majority UAE, where secularization is on the rise. This event comes shortly after the inauguration of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir in India. While Modi’s government in India blurs the lines between the state and Hindu faith and undermines minority rights, the UAE moves in the opposite direction. The UAE’s secularization, influencing Saudi Arabia as well, is a significant development in the Islamic world. This shift challenges India’s secular values. The UAE has attracted people of various religions and backgrounds to live and work there. Despite Islam being the official religion, the government allows diverse religious practices. Non-Muslims, forming a quarter of the population, have space to worship freely, with many churches, a synagogue, and a gurdwara present. Hindu gatherings and celebrations are also welcomed. The UAE’s tolerance extends beyond religion. Alcohol and pork are available, and Ramadan fasting rules are relaxed. Women have freedom in dress, and discrimination based on religion is rare. These progressive attitudes influence neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is spearheading modernization efforts by reducing Islamic influence and cutting support for radical groups worldwide. This trend towards secularization in the UAE and potentially Saudi Arabia marks a significant shift in the Islamic world. For India, reduced Saudi funding for conservative mosques could lead to a return to moderate religious guidance for Indian Muslims. The UAE’s example challenges the Hindu nationalist dream of a Hindu majoritarian state, often compared to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of non-Muslims. Modi, at the temple inauguration, praised the UAE’s diversity, contrasting India’s fading secularism. As Hindu residents in UAE face this contrast, it prompts reflection on India’s trajectory. The writer, a private equity investor, emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and secular values in both countries.
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Beni Mellal – Tajikistan has officially banned the wearing of hijabs and other “alien garments,” imposing hefty fines in a move to curb Islamic influence. The bill was passed by the upper house of parliament, Majlisi Milli, on June 19, following years of unofficial restrictions on the hijab in the Muslim-majority country.

Under the new law, individuals wearing hijabs or other banned religious clothing face fines of up to 7,920 somonis (approximately $700). Companies allowing employees to wear prohibited garments risk penalties of 39,500 somonis ($3,500). Government officials and religious leaders face even steeper fines of 54,000-57,600 somonis ($4,800-$5,100) for violations.

The bill also restricts children’s participation in Islamic holiday traditions such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, with government officials claiming the measures ensure “proper education and safety” of children.

In recent years, Tajikistan has seen an increase in Islamic clothing from the Middle East, which authorities view as linked to extremism and a threat to the country’s cultural identity. President Emomali Rahmon referred to the hijab as “foreign clothing” in a March address, promoting traditional Tajik national dress as an alternative.

This law escalates Tajikistan’s unofficial restrictions on Islamic attire. Since 2007, the hijab has been banned for students, later extending to all public institutions. Authorities have also discouraged bushy beards in men, with reports of police forcibly shaving thousands of beards over the past decade.

Human rights organizations have condemned the hijab ban as a violation of religious freedom. With over 98% of the population being Muslim, the law is likely to face significant opposition within Tajik society as it goes into effect.

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