Tajikistan Mosques: No Kids Allowed

Youth doesn’t always get you the upper hand.

Last month, the government of Tajikistan passed a new law “on parental responsibility for educating and raising children,” which bans children under the age of 18 from attending religious services at mosques except for holidays and funerals.  Praying is okay, but skipping school to attend a prayer service is not.  And if a child is caught, parents can either face a steep fine or even jail time.  The law may also give authorities the power to stop parents from giving their children Arabic names.

“We have observed in recent years attempts by extremist movements to influence the world views of our children,” Tajikistan’s president Emomali Rakhmon announced in a speech last April.  “The leaders of various extremist groups and currents have started appearing in academic institutions, recruiting inexperienced youth.”

Yet “independent experts say there is little evidence that militant Islamic groups have found much of a following in Tajikistan,” The New York Times reported.  “Rather, they say, regional leaders often use the threat of Islamic extremism as a pretext to crack down on political opponents and their supporters.”

This is not the first of many religious crackdowns by the forced secularist government.  Already, bearded men get detained at random, women are not allowed to attend religious services, and private mosques and Islamic websites have been shut down.  The remaining mosques are government-run, which allows censors to monitor Friday sermons.

“This law was passed so that the parents of these children fulfill their responsibilities for raising them,” said Mavlon Mukhtorov, deputy chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee.  “Schoolchildren should be in school.  If they all go to the mosques for prayers and cast aside their schoolwork they will not be able to learn.”

To which I ask, learn what?  Repression, censorship, restriction, intolerance, denial of basic freedoms?  Secularism is not the denial of religion, but rather the separation of faith and politics.  When the two can co-exist, you have a democracy.  But when you turn them on each other and force the two to battle it out like a divorce gone wrong, then all you have is Soviet residue with a McCarthy-esque legislation.  Extremism doesn’t just encompass religion; it can apply to the lack of faith as well.

The root cause of terrorism is not religion, but poverty.  It’s not Islam that teaches Muslims to hate America; it’s the uneven wealth distribution between the United States and third-world countries.  Tajikistan has a high literacy rate, but it is also the poorest nation in central Asia and of all the previously Soviet countries. “Suicide bombers aren’t being recruited for dastardly acts on the lure of 72 virgins as much as they are promised their families will be cared for,” Muna Khan wrote in Al Arabiya.  “Children attend madrassahs not because they espouse to be learned scholars as much as the school feeds them and clothes them.”

“The failure of a secular society with a large Muslim population has been that it has been unable to show that it can co-exist with religion.  It’s almost succumbed to the the evil definition of secularism by Islamists- t0 be secular is to be without faith, when that is not the truth.”

You can’t fight extremism with monomania, because at the core, Tajikistan’s secular fundamentalism has nothing to do with religion or even terrorism, but power.  Restrictions don’t maintain control; they either breed opposition or, in the case of Iran, push the people to thrive on an underground culture.  Dialogue is how you break the cycle of radicalism. Allah is not the enemy here; it’s independence.


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Photo courtesy of guisse95 via Flickr.


Cindy S
Cindy Smith9 months ago


New G.
W. C7 years ago

Thank you for the information.

Uroosa K.
Uroosa K7 years ago

I think kids under 13 years old should only come to Mosque if they keep their mouths shut because it's hard to hear what the Imam is saying. To be honest I love this rule Tajikistan has set.

Roger S.
Roger Still7 years ago

NOBODY should be exposed to religion before the age of majority.

Tom Y.
Tom Y7 years ago

"Extremism doesn’t just encompass religion; it can apply to the lack of faith as well."

I'm glad to see this thought expressed -- JULIET D.'s "secular fundamentalists," notably Tajikistan's former Soviet Union masters, typically resolved religious disputes by murdering all who dissented from the officially atheistic Party line. Extreme!

Ultimately, murdering someone else is a judgment call: "You're not enough like me, so there! Take that!" The process of maturity involves giving other people space and the opportunity to prove themselves as law-abiding citizens. Not becoming think-alike pawns in an officially-approved grouping. Tajikistan's already inflamed al-Qaeda clones with its new directive...

Maggie D.
Maggie D7 years ago

i dont think poverty doesnt cause terrorism, although it may certainly enhance it. religion itself doesnt cause terrorism, either; if there were no religions, people would still find something to be extremist about and we would still be killing each other.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S7 years ago

Cont'd: No, these kids will never get a true education unless Islam is kept in check. & why the concern @ kids attending mosques when in many mosques women aren't allowed, or if they are, they often must hide behind screens. & menstruating women aren't even allowed to pray, they're unclean! Where is the criticism of this mysogeny?

Safa, you have made similar editorials before pushing your own Islamic agenda. Your lack of knowledge of Islam shows, or is it Takiyya you're pushing? Please read the Qur'an in a language you can understand before you editorialize on it. You can read it online at: http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts/muslim/quran/

Tajikistan is wise to keep Islam from gaining control & their fear of radicals brainwashing children is very real as can be seen all around the world in many mosques/madarasas. You're smoking some powerful weed or practicing Takiyya (lies to promote Islam that have Allah's blessings & encouragment) if you can't see this. Islam is NOT like other religions. It refuses to reform & modernize.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S7 years ago

"The failure of a secular society with a large Muslim population has been that it has been unable to show that it can co-exist with religion"

This article is so biased & lacks so much documentation it should be classed as an editorial - not Safa's first.

The failure of Islamic society is that IT has been unable to show that it can co-exist with a secular society. Muslims are commanded to conquer & rule the world for Allah & never allow any other religion to rule over or be equal to Islam. No Islamic country allows freedom of religion, speech, conscience (it is illegal in all Muslim countries to leave Islam) or press.

Just look at neighboring Islamist-ruled Chechnya. No Muslim country allows questioning or criticism of Mohammed, the Qur'an, Islam, it brings death or prison in them all. Even telling the truth about Mohammed's womanizing, raping, banditry, murdering, adultery etc. is blasphemy in all Muslim countries as is pointing out the contradictions/absurdities in the Qur'an. The Islamic Inquisition has been ongoing almost 1400 yrs, killing 'apostates', gays, raped women (Allah says they are liars if they can't find 4 men as witnesses of the rape), adultresses, women who marry nonMuslims & chopping off of hands/feet etc. This Inquisition makes the Catholic Inquistiton of 500 years ago seem benign.

No, these kids will never get a true education unless Islam is kept in check. & why the concern @kids attending mosques when in many mosques

Terry O.
Terry O.7 years ago

Do female suicide bombers get 72 male virgins?

Parvez Z.
Parvez Zuberi7 years ago

If the children are taught correctly the basic of religion which teaches love tolerance and moderation in dealing with daily life and remain contained what we have that is the jest of the Islamic teaching but young people mind are poisoned by the developed countries to meet their own agenda one example is when Russian invaded Afghanistan it is Americans who recruited young Muslims from Arab countries and infused the concept of Jihad and trained them when their aim was achieved they were dropped like hot potato and left which led to extremism and when the same people are fighting Americans for invading Afghanistan they are called terrorist