06/22/2017, 14.54
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Dushanbe: young Tajiks banned from pilgrimage to Makkah

Officially, the reason is to encourage seniors to make the journey; in fact, the aim is to prevent youth radicalisation. The Islamic majority country tightens controls on the religious life of its people.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews/RFE) – Authorities in Tajikistan have barred citizens under the age of 40 from performing this year's annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Tajikistan's Committee on Religious Affairs said that the decision was made to give older Tajik Muslims more of a chance to undertake the pilgrimage, as Saudi authorities are putting in place stricter quotas.

Still, many in the Central Asian state believe the ban is an attempt to prevent radicalisation among younger generations.

President Emomali Rahmon's government has repeatedly called for the strengthening of secular principles in the mostly Muslim country of 8.5 million, routinely imposing age restrictions on devout Muslims who want to perform hajj. In 2015, the minimum age was 35 years.

The authorities have also tightened controls on religious life amid reports that many Tajiks have joined Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria. In recent years, they have banned head scarves for schoolgirls, barred minors from mosques, and forced thousands of students to return home from Islamic schools abroad.

The country's Culture Ministry in April announced that no books would be allowed in or out of the country without written permission. Ostensibly, the reason is to prevent valuable manuscripts from being smuggled out of the country, but the move has led some to conclude that it is really intended to stop the dissemination of extremist religious material.

Tajikistan was the first and only former Soviet Republic to register officially an Islamic political party in 1999. But the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan was banned and branded as a terrorist organisation by the country’s Supreme Court in 2015.

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