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  • » 03/26/2009, 00.00

    TAJIKISTAN

    Tajik president Rakhmon signs law suffocating religious freedom



    Even while it was being drafted, the bill was criticized by the OCSE and the U.S. Prompted by the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, it puts under state control any activity connected to faith, institutes censorship of religious publications, and makes the legalization of non-Muslim groups almost impossible.

    Dushanbe (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A new law that significantly restricts religious freedom was signed today by the president of Tajikistan, Imomali Rakhmon. The new norm, which has been under development since 2006 and will take effect after its official publication, has been criticized since its first appearance by both the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United States.

    In a country in which Muslims represent 95% of 6.5 million inhabitants, bordering on Afghanistan, the main concern of the government - which is distinctly authoritarian - is that of stopping fundamentalist and extremist tendencies. In January, the Salafi branch of Islam was outlawed, and publications referring to it were banned.

    The extensive document bans religious education for children under the age of 7, and any religious instruction in private homes. It imposes preventive censorship on religious literature, and restrictions on religious services, which must be held in places approved by the state. Only Tajik citizens, moreover, can head religious groups, and non-Muslim religious groups cannot be registered if they have fewer than 400 faithful in rural areas, 800 in urban areas, and 1,200 in the capital. Foreign missionaries are required to live in one place for at least ten years before founding new communities.

    "People's religious rights are violated in every article of this law," Khikmatullo Saifullozoda tells Reuters. Saifullozoda is a leader of the main opposition Islamic Revival Party, which has no concrete political influence. "It would have been more accurate to call this law not 'Law on the Freedom of Conscience' but "Law on its restriction'."

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    See also

    30/03/2009 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.

    26/09/2008 UZBEKISTAN
    Tashkent, tight control over mosques and faithful during Ramadan
    The main mosques are under surveillance, large meetings in private homes are forbidden, and the imams are strictly required to have their Friday sermons approved: the government seeks to control every aspect of religious life, out of fear of protests.

    22/12/2008 IRAN
    Iran closes human rights center of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi
    The center wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the UN declaration of human rights. The police threatened and beat those present, and confiscated cameras. According to Human Rights Watch, it is "a challenge" to the entire worldwide human rights movement. Concern over the fate of the Nobel laureate.

    10/03/2009 INDIA - SAUDI ARABIA
    After jail, Christians pray for Saudi king Abdallah
    Fr. George Joshua was arrested in 2006 by the religious police, for celebrating Mass in a private residence. In 2007, he founded a group that has been joined by more than 500 people. They are praying for the well-being of the kingdom, and for freedom of religion. The priest invites Christians in India to make a "positive contribution to Saudi society."

    17/03/2009 RUSSIA
    Medvedev steers religions toward young people, but blocks Jehovah's witnesses
    The Russian president is involving the traditional confessions in programs on behalf of young people. The Kremlin wants to reinforce relations with the Orthodox, make the Patriarch of Moscow a point of reference for all religions, and attribute a strong political value to his position. Jehovah's Witnesses accused of social isolation.



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