Fresh from President Emomali Rahmon’s visit to Mecca, the government in Tajikistan has dreamt up a new way to further curtail the rights of devout Muslims.
Asia-Plus website reported on January 15 that citizens under the age of 40 will no longer be allowed to perform the hajj.
An official on the religious affairs committee, Husein Shokirov, told Asia-Plus that the restrictions would give older Tajiks more of a chance to undertake the pilgrimage.
One ongoing development motivating the move, Shokirov said, are the stricter quotas being put in place by the authorities of Saudi Arabia.
The number of people from Tajikistan allowed to do the hajj in 2015 was 6,300.
Critics of the new age limit of 40, which has been raised from the limit of 35 that was instituted in April, will object that the authorities are attempting crudely to stamp out religiosity among the younger generations. The intent is apparently to prevent instances of radicalization.
Shokirov has also said that imams are to receive training on how to identify extremists and terrorists among worshippers at the mosque.
The courses will be led by representatives of officials religious organizations, who will teach imams how to spot the telltale signs of a terrorist at prayer.
“All imams in the mosques of Tajikistan are well acquainted with the behavior of adherents to our school — the school of Hanafi — and can distinguish them from others,” Shokirov said.
Where that will leave non-orthodox Hanafi practitioners who happen not to be terrorists isn’t clear.
Shokirov said 2,542 imams from across the country will go on the extremist-spotting courses, Asia-Plus reported.
It is never obvious from such announcements on what basis the authorities are operating. Are they convinced that the spread of extremist, and even violent, ideas is proliferating widely? Alternatively, it is possible that while acknowledging and admitting that growing numbers are turning to religion, the government wishes to ensure faith is practiced wholly within strictly prescribed boundaries.
The police have slightly less stringent criteria about how to identify people they deem to pose a security risks. Accounts abound of young men wearing beards and women dressed in the veil being hauled into the police station for stiff admonition.