07/22/2011, 00.00
TAJIKISTAN
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In Dushanbe minors can not enter church without authorization

New amendments to ban children from any religious activity, punishing parents who "do not prevent it." The state says it wants to prevent Islamic extremism and protect children. But Christians are concerned that in fact, is a tool to target any religious group.
Dushanbe (AsiaNews/F18) - The upper house of the Tajik Parliament yesterday approved new restrictions on religious freedom for minors. In addition there are new penalties for those who preach "religious extremism", but there is concern because it has failed to outline the contents of the law. The new law on parental responsibility states it is the "duty" of parents “not to allow underage youth to participate in the activities of religious organizations, with the exception of those included in official religious education", those approved by the State .

The ban was expected, but that children could at least attend "funerals". Now even this possibility has been excluded, a small but important change for the concept it expresses.

Control is entrusted to the Committee for Religious Affairs, which also has local offices in the country, thus capable of keeping the public life of families under surveillance and to denounce their parents who do not exercise the required supervision. Parents should monitor that their children do not even participate in religious activities when they are abroad and now special government permission is needed to register them in a foreign religious school.

Forum 18 sources explain that it has become much more difficult to obtain state approval for any form of religious instruction. In practice, the ban prevents young people from having any religious education or involvement until they reach adulthood.

Supporters of the law counter that young people under 18 may not have sufficient maturity to participate with awareness and that the new law only wants to protect them. But local religious sources tell F18 that "all religious activity was forbidden for people under 18 years" and that this law "does not respect international human rights standards" for minors. "All the Protestant churches - said another source - are concerned, now it is against the law for a child to be in church," because the state authorities "do not even give permission to non-Islamic groups for Sunday catechism classes ".

Article 9 of the Act prohibits children and young people from "receiving instruction in schools and educational institutions or from individuals which are not state recognized."

The main purpose is to target the madrassas (Islamic schools) abroad: in August 2010 the President Emomali Rahmon urged families to call children who attend Islamic schools abroad, warning against the danger that they become "extremists and terrorists" . Many poor families send their children to similar Muslim institutions, where they are housed, fed and receive a basic education, even if the level is very questionable.

But the ban affects everyone: under the new law on religious freedom in 2009, many mosques were destroyed, Christians tried and convicted for "illegal" meetings and activities and Jehovah's Witnesses banned from the country.

Up to 2 years imprisonment has also been introduced for anyone who arranges "unauthorized meetings, demonstrations, pickets and road marches”, basically any gathering of illegal matrix. It 'also punishes those who teach "extremist" religious doctrines but it was not clear what is meant by extremist, leaving, therefore, considerable discretion to the police: teaching "in any place” is punishable, even in private homes, with imprisonment of up to 12 years for the organizers and the confiscation of property.


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