Tajikistan: No Hajj, No Hijab, and Shave Your Beard

In a Muslim-majority country, state control of religious expression tightens.

Technically, freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution of Tajikistan. But in reality, religious practice–at least for members of the country’s Muslim majority–is tightly controlled by the state. In recent months, Tajikistan has furthered steadied its grip on the practice of Islam with the president commenting on proper attire, reports of forced beard-shavings, and new regulations on who can travel to Mecca on hajj………….

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The tightening grip of the state on Islam extends beyond politics. The State Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) is responsible for overseeing and implementing laws relating to religion–including registration of religious groups, regulation of imports of religious materials, and oversight of mosques and churches. The Council of Ulema guides the Tajik Muslim community and while nominally independent, presents a state-approved version of Islam.

There are laws on the books banning female students from wearing hijabs, prohibiting those under the age of 18 from from participating in public religious activities, except funerals, which are regulated anyway. According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2013 International Religious Freedom Report:

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