05/20/2015, 00.00
TAJIKISTAN
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Bogus permits sold to allow Muslims to grow a beard or wear a veil

Tajikistan has been forcing Muslim men to shave their beards to counter Islamic extremism. Prosecutors are investigating the sale of bogus permits, something denied by the committee in charge of such documents. Top paramilitary official has been arrested on his way to Syria to fight with the Islamic State group.

Dushanbe (AsiaNews) – Tajik prosecutors have launched an investigation into suspected fraud in connection with the sale of bogus permits authorising Muslims to wear long beards in the case of men, or head scarves (hijabs) in the case of women, this according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Officials at the Prosecutor-General's Office told the broadcaster that investigations are targeting the "repeated forgery of documents" and the "incitement of religious, ethnic, racial, and social hatred."

The bogus permits are purportedly sold to Muslims by the State Committee for Religion, Traditions and Rites Regulations for 250 somonis ().

However, that committee has denied involvement, stating that those who spread "misinformation" are seeking to "disrupt trust between the committee and ordinary citizens."

The investigations are part of the Tajik government's effort to promote a secular state and stem the spread of Islamic extremism in the country.

A few weeks ago, a Tajik national was arrested after he was tricked by a recruiter in Moscow into going to Turkey to fight in Syria with the Islamic State (IS) group.

The government’s crackdown includes a ban on the pilgrimage to Makkah (hajj) for all those under 35 years, to counter the radical ideas among young people.

For months, President Emomali Rakhmon has repeatedly called for strengthening secular principles in his predominantly Muslim Central Asian republic of 8.5 million people.

The authorities have already banned headscarves for schoolgirls, banned minors from mosques and forced those who were studying abroad in Islamic schools to return home.

At the same time, activists complain that local authorities are forcing Muslims to shave off their beard (pictured).

In Central Asia, the recruitment of young people in the struggle in the Middle East has become an urgent problem for local governments.

According to recent estimates, nearly 4,000 young people from Central Asia have joined Islamic extremists in the past three years.

The latest reports indicate that even some top Tajik officials are fighting with the Islamic Caliphate.

Turkish authorities have arrested Gulmurod Halimov, a decorated commander of Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry paramilitary team (OMON), who had disappeared last month.

He is one of the country’s most important officials. Sources close to the Ministry – anonymous for security reasons – said that the colonel was found in Turkey, where he had gone with a false passport to join extremists in Syria.

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