Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Nov 9: Taking a very strong view of religious extremism authorities in Tajikistan have vowed to remove foreign-educated Imams (Muslim clergy) across the country, agencies report.
The Religious Committee of the state has set a deadline of mid-November for the loal government authorities to replace the imams who were trained at religious schools outside the country with ‘suitable’ preachers.
The Tajikistan authorities were forced to take such a strong step due to alleged involvement of some Muslim clerics in ‘spreading banned religious’ teachings that promoted a strict form of Sunni Islam, sources said.
AsiaNews quoted Committee Spokesman Adshin Muqim as saying that the measure will not affect anyone who studied abroad “legally” with the approval of the Tajikistan government.
The head of the state-backed Council of Islamic Ulema of Tajikistan, Saidmukarram Abdulqodirzoda is one of hundreds of clerics who studied outside the country under official auspices.
However, Abdulqodirzoda, a graduate of a religious school in Islamabad, announced his “readiness to resign . . . for the sake of the country’s stability.”
"I don’t want a repeat of the terrible events of the 1990s," he said, referring to the civil war that raged from 1992 to 1997 pitting the secular-oriented government against the Islamist-led opposition.
Imams in Tajikistan are appointed by the same religious committee that oversees mosques and churches and implements laws relating to religion.
The latest measure is part of a crackdown by Tajik authorities to counter foreign influence and extremism.
About 90 per cent of Tajikistan’s 8.3 million people are Muslim, mostly following the moderate Hanafi school.
In the country, religious life has become under closer scrutiny after many Tajiks joined Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.
As part of this, the authorities have banned the veil in schools, prohibited minors from going to mosques, and forced several foreign Islamic students to leave.