03/30/2009, 00.00
TAJIKISTAN

New synagogue of Dushanbe to open soon

It will stand in a building given to the Jewish community by a rich banker. The old synagogue was demolished to build the new presidential palace. There is great fear in the country for religious freedom, especially for non-Islamic faiths, after the restrictive law promulgated last week.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Jewish community of Dushanbe will soon have a new synagogue, thanks to a donation from a prominent businessmen. Serious restrictions of religious freedom are underway in the country, and are more severe for non-Muslims.

The synagogue will be built in a few months, in the building (in the photo) donated by Hasan Assadullozoda, owner of Orient-Bank and the brother-in-law of Tajik president Imomali Rakhmon.

The Jewish community is expressing great satisfaction. Its rabbi, Mikhael Abdurahmonov, has said that the new synagogue will be better than the previous one.

The only synagogue in the capital was demolished last June, together with an entire neighborhood, in order to build the grandiose new presidential palace. The few hundreds of Jews in Dushanbe protested, in part because they did not have the money to build a new place of worship, and the government had promised to take care of the matter but then did nothing.

The old synagogue was built at the beginning of the 20th century, when there were at least two Jewish neighborhoods in Dushanbe. It survived the Soviet period, and for the Jews was always a place not only to pray, but also to gather and carry out social activities on behalf of the needy.

A restrictive new law on religious freedom went into effect in the country last week. It prohibits religious education for children under the age of seven and in private homes, permits the celebration of religious services only in places approved by the authorities, and allows the recognition of non-Muslim religious groups only if they have at least 400 faithful in rural areas, 800 in the cities, and 1,200 in the capital. 95% of the 6.5 million inhabitants are Muslim.

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