Bill on Religious Practice Raises Concern

July 20, 2007

Author: Nafisa Pisarejeva

Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Religious minorities in Tajikistan fear proposed new rules will restrict their practices, despite their constitutional right to freedom of belief.

The Tajik government is currently examining a draft law put forward by the culture ministry’s religious department which sets tough new conditions a religious group must pass before gaining registration.

The proposals state that in order to register, a group must have a minimum number of members - no less than 1,200 in the capital and 400 in the regions. They would also outlaw missionary activities.

Religious minorities in the predominantly Muslim country fear the proposals, which could mark a return to the bad old days of the Soviet Union, when Protestants and other minority groups were persecuted by the authorities for holding unauthorised services.

Some 20 Protestant groups and the Baha’i Society wrote to President Imomali Rahmonov earlier this month to appeal the proposed legislation, which has also reportedly alarmed the Catholic Church.

“The law creates completely impractical conditions for registering organisations of religious minorities, whether they already exist or are newly created. Thus, they make it illegal for believers to practice their religion, which suggests that in future the state will persecute them for their beliefs,” said their statement.