The constitution protects religious freedom; however, other laws and policies restrict religious freedom. There is no official state religion, but the government recognizes the “special status” of Hanafi Islam.
The CRA is the main body overseeing and implementing all religious laws. Religious organizations and institutions must register with the government, a process overseen by the CRA. The nominally independent Council of Ulemo is an Islamic council that issues fatwas and religious guidance to Islamic religious organizations. Many observers believe that the Council of Ulemo is heavily influenced by the government and tasked to promote official state policies regarding Islam. Separate from the CRA, the Center for Islamic Studies within President Rahmon’s executive office monitors religious developments and helps formulate the government’s religious policy.
The Law on Parental Responsibility, signed into law in August, prohibits persons under 18 from participating in public religious activities with the exception of funerals. There is a caveat that allows parents to petition the CRA to allow their children to attend religious services.
The Law on Freedom of Belief and Religious Organizations expanded the government’s power to regulate religious communities and required all registered religious organizations to reregister with the government by January 1, 2010. Most religious communities completed reregistration by the deadline. In the absence of registration, local authorities can force a place of worship to close and fine its members, although some unregistered minority communities have been able to worship unimpeded. Some groups met the deadline but were refused reregistration. The government also maintains a list of banned groups it considers “extremist,” including Jamaati Tabligh (an Islamic missionary organization), Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the Salafiya movement.
The Law on Freedom of Belief and Religious Organizations regulates registration, size, and location of mosques, limiting the number of mosques that may be registered within a given population area. “Friday” mosques are allowed in districts with 10,000 to 20,000 persons; “five-time” mosques are allowed in areas with populations of 100 to 1,000. In Dushanbe, “Friday” mosques are allowed in areas with 30,000 to 50,000 persons, and “five-time” mosques are allowed in areas with populations of 1,000 to 5,000. The law stipulates that imams and imam-khatibs are selected by “the appropriate state bodies in charge of religious affairs.” The religion law allows one central “Friday” mosque per district, and makes other mosques subordinate to it. The law also restricts Muslim prayer to only four locations: the mosque, cemetery, home, and at holy shrines.
The Law on Freedom of Belief and Religious Organizations requires that all institutions or organizations wishing to provide religious instruction must first obtain permission and be registered through the CRA. Only central district mosques may operate madrassahs for high school graduates. Other mosques, if registered by the government, may operate religious schools for younger students. One madrassah that provides both religious and secular instruction for students above the ninth grade continues to operate in Dushanbe. The only synagogue is not officially registered, but persons are allowed to worship. It was not registered because the community is not large enough to meet the Jewish and Tajik requirements for formal registration of a synagogue. It is legal for parents to teach religious beliefs to their children in the privacy of their home, provided the child expresses a desire to learn. However, religious homeschooling outside the immediate family is forbidden.
The MOE oversees implementation of legal provisions related to religious instruction in schools. In 2011 the MOE ended a weekly, one-hour course on Islam that was taught in public schools. The Islamic Institute of Tajikistan, the only Muslim higher education institution in the country, is under MOE authority; MOE approves the rector, faculty, and all programs of study. The government inspects the curricula at madrassahs and periodically monitors classes.
A 2004 Council of Ulemo fatwa prohibiting women from praying in mosques remained in effect. Council of Ulemo members promoted official government policies regarding women praying in mosques, stating that according to the country’s Islamic traditions, women should pray at home.
The MOE continued to enforce dress and personal conduct codes that infringed on religious expression. School and university students were prohibited from wearing the hijab, although wearing traditional Tajik hats and scarves was permitted. Council of Ulemo members have not disputed the MOE dress code banning the hijab in schools, ruling that the national head covering may substitute for the hijab. Women who studied at the Islamic Institute and madrassahs were able to wear the hijab.
The 2009 MOE’s dress code also prohibits teachers under age 50 from wearing a beard. There were reports that men were not able to obtain a passport if photographed with a beard, and women were not permitted to be photographed while wearing a hijab, unless traveling for the Hajj. The Council of Ulemo stressed the need for persons to wear traditional Tajik robes and headwear in public, as opposed to foreign religious dress such as the hijab.
The Law on Observing National Traditions and Rituals regulates private celebrations and funeral services, including weddings, funerals, and Mavludi Payghambar (the Prophet's birthday). The stated intent of the law is to protect the public from spending excessive amounts of money on these celebrations, which often included several hundred guests. The law limits the number of guests, eliminates engagement parties, and controls ceremonial gift presentations and other rituals. The Law on Freedom of Belief and Religious Organizations reiterates these principles, mandating that “mass worship, religious traditions, and ceremonies should be carried out according to the procedure of holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, and peaceful processions prescribed by law of the Republic of Tajikistan.”
The government tightly controls the publication, importation, and distribution of religious literature. Religious organizations are required to submit copies of all literature to the Ministry of Culture for approval one month prior to delivery. Religious associations may import an unspecified “proper number” of religious materials.
The CRA regulates citizen’s participation in the Hajj. The CRA collects applications and fees for participation in the Hajj and makes all flight and hotel arrangements in Saudi Arabia. The authorities prevent participation of citizens under age 18. The CRA reported that 5,659 Tajik citizens made Hajj in 2011. The fee to participate in the Hajj was 16,400 TJS ($3,448), which was 1,220 TJS ($257) more than the prior year. Most who applied were allowed to go. Cases of corruption were reported in the selection of candidates for pilgrimage. The Head of the Religious Department of the Administration in Southern Khatlon region was dismissed in November 2011 for involvement in bribery during the 2011 Hajj process.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Islamic holy days of Idi Ramazon (Eid al-Fitr) and Idi Qurbon (Eid al-Adha).