Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tajik Islam

RFE-RL reports on the growth of Islamic practice among young people in Tajikistan. This probably forms part of the rising interest in perceived national heritages after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Tajik authorities' fear of Islamic activism, however, continues to cause problems:
"The parents of 7-year-old Maryam are sending her to a school run by the Iranian Embassy in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.

"She attends the Iranian school because, like many other Tajik girls who wear Islamic head scarves, Maryam wasn't allowed to enter her Tajik school when it opened last week.

"'I went to school on September 1, but [the teachers] didn't let me in,' she says. 'They told me to remove my head scarf. I didn't go to school anymore.'

"Tajikistan's Education Ministry outlawed the hejab in schools and universities last year and also demands that its students wear special uniforms. It's all part of the Tajik authorities' wider efforts to restrict the growing influence of Islam in society."

The USSR looked at all religion as backward, and in the case of Islam that was built upon centuries of Russian hostility, so it's not surprising that those with a Soviet education, both in the country's leadership and others in the older generation whom the article mentions, look askance upon these trends. Trying to suppress them, however, is likely to do more harm than good. After all, the people most skilled at smuggling Islamic materials past authorities are the very radicals the state would like to suppress.

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