Tajikistan's children to be banned from worship after Ramadan?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

tajikistanDUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN (Worthy News)-- Although the Law on Parental Responsibility for the Education and Upbringing of Children has recently been enacted, Religious Affairs officials haven't explained how the ban on children's participation in worship will be enforced.

Hikmatullo Sayfullozoda of the Islamic Renaissance Party said that "the President gave a verbal instruction to local administrations not to touch people during Ramadan," but fears that authorities will enforce the new law once the Islamic festival is over at the end of August. However, Forum 18 was unable to confirm that President Rahmon actually issued those instructions.

The Parental Responsibility law was approved by Parliament on July 21 and then sent to the President; despite widespread criticism, President Rahmon signed the bill in early August.

Article 8 of the new law states: "Parents are obliged ... not to let children-teenagers participate in the activity of religious organisations, with the exception of those officially enrolled in religious education."

Article 9 "bans the encouragement of children to receive education in illegal schools and education institutions as well as from individual persons who do not have permission for such activity". It also requires parents "not to allow the education of adolescent children abroad without the permission of appropriate state agencies".

The new law also includes restrictions on all forms of education as well as children's behaviour, banning jewlery and tattoos, as well as names parents can't choose for their children.

Chief Mufti Akbar Turajonzoda said the new restrictions were doubly painful during Ramadan.

(The ban) "contradicts not only the laws of Allah, but also the culture and spirit of Tajikistan's Muslims."

"Many people are angered by this Law," activist Nargis Zokirova told Forum 18. "The ban on children's participation in religious activity represents interference in the personal life of the children and their families."

A number of Christian communities recently met with the Religious Affairs Committee to learn exactly how the new law will be enacted.

"Officials explained that the Law exists, but didn't explain how it will be put into practice," said a member of Dushanbe's Catholic parish. "The Law has had no effect on parish life so far: we live as we did before."

Protestants also left the meeting dissatisfied.

"We got no sensible responses from the officials," one complained. "Our church has not taken any action, except that we asked parents to decide for themselves whether they wish their children to continue to attend as the Law clearly states that they would bear any responsibility for the presence of their children."

"The official was not competent to give answers," another anonymous Protestant said. "But he said we have no right to have our children participate in our activity and that persistent offenders will be closed down. None of us really knows how things will be."