USCIRF: Tajikistan Threatens Religion

March 24, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Baptist Press

Religious expression in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan may soon become even more restricted, according to a warning from a nonpartisan federal panel that keeps tabs on the global status of faith groups.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported that Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon is preparing to sign a religion law that will place more constraints on religion, especially Islam. Some of its measures, USCIRF noted, may violate international agreements Tajikistan has entered into.

The legislation, approved in March by Tajikistan's Parliament, will place into law government policies already practiced against Muslims, USCIRF reported. Muslims make up about 97 percent of the country's population. The Tajik government promotes secularism, according to the U.S. State Department.

The bill's provisions include the forced closing of hundreds of mosques and restrictions on the religious training of children, according to the commission. It also limits religious activities to state-sanctioned places of worship, mandates government censorship of religious literature and permits state regulation of religious groups, USCIRF said.

"The picture for religious freedom in Tajikistan is growing dim," said Felice Gaer, USCIRF's chairwoman.