Dushanbe (AsiaNews/RFE) – Tajik authorities have pledged to remove foreign-educated imams across the country in order to fight religious extremism.
The country’s State Religious Committee has set a deadline of mid-November for local government authorities to replace imams who trained at religious schools abroad, outside of official channels, with “suitable” people.
The reason for this is the involvement of some Muslim clerics in “spreading banned religious” teachings that promote a strict form of Sunni Islam.
Last Thursday, committee spokesman Afshin Muqim said that the measure will not affect anyone who studied abroad "legally” with Tajik government approval.
The head of the state-backed Council of Islamic Ulema of Tajikistan, Saidmukarram Abdulqodirzoda (pictured), is one of hundreds of clerics who studied outside the country under official auspices.
However, Abdulqodirzoda, a graduate of a religious school in Islamabad, announced his “readiness to resign . . . for the sake of the country’s stability.”
"I don’t want a repeat of the terrible events of the 1990s," he said, referring to the civil war that raged from 1992 to 1997 pitting the secular-oriented government against the Islamist-led opposition.
Imams in Tajikistan are appointed by the same religious committee that oversees mosques and churches and implements laws relating to religion.
The latest measure is part of a crackdown by Tajik authorities to counter foreign influence and extremism.
About 90 per cent of Tajikistan’s 8.3 million people are Muslim, mostly following the moderate Hanafi school.
In the country, religious life has become under closer scrutiny after many Tajiks joined Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.
As part of this, the authorities have banned the veil in schools, prohibited minors from going to mosques, and forced several foreign Islamic students to leave.