Tajikistan bans citizens under 40 to perform hajj to Mecca

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DUSHANBE (TCA) — Authorities in Tajikistan have barred citizens under the age of 40 from performing this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reported.

Tajikistan’s Committee on Religious Affairs told RFE/RL on June 20 that the decision was made to give older Tajik Muslims more of a chance to undertake the pilgrimage, as Saudi authorities are putting in place stricter quotas.

But many in the Central Asian state believe the ban is an attempt to prevent instances of radicalization among younger generations.

In the past years, the Tajik government has routinely imposed age restrictions for devout Muslims to perform hajj. In 2015, the minimum age was 35.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s government has repeatedly called for the strengthening of secular principles in the mostly Muslim country of 8.5 million.

Tajikistan has banned head scarves for schoolgirls, barred minors from mosques, and forced thousands of students to return home from Islamic schools abroad in recent years amid reports that many Tajiks have joined Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria.

Tajik authorities recently said that hundreds of Tajikistan citizens were fighting with Islamic State militants in Syria, and there is a threat that they would bring in extremism and terrorism back home if they return to their home country.

Sergey Kwan

TCA