TAJIK PRESS ABOUT THE YOUTH AND ISLAM

Kiemiddin SATTORI


Kiemiddin Sattori, Independent journalist, cooperates with the Sipekhr Center of Information and Analysis (Dushanbe)


Introduction

Before the Soviet Union fell apart and the civil war started the youth in Tajikistan was educated in the spirit of atheism. Under the Soviet Constitution the religion was separated from the state, yet it was not totally uprooted. People were clinging to their religious values and traditional culture and customs; the clergy was highly respected, especially among the young people.

The armed conflict reduced society and its moral, spiritual, and cultural values to degradation. The youth felt the conflict more than the other age groups. During the years of independence there appeared three distinct groups among the young people. One of them became actively involved in the Islamic movement under the influence of the Islamic clergy and Islamic activists. Another is made up of young people who either preserved their faith in the communist ideology or turned to the West. They are convinced that Islam should be blamed for all conflicts in their republic because of its intolerance and warmongering. There are also young people who prefer new religious beliefs and sects (Bahais, Zoroastrians, Krishnaites, Satanists, and others) that came to the republic in the post-Soviet time.

Before 1992, during the perestroika years the Tajik press was brimming with publications about the youth and religion. The subject fascinated journalists, social scientists and experts in religions, philosophers and academics working in the field of the science of man. They looked at the problems different aspects and discussed them in the press, over the radio and TV.

The Javononi Tochikiston (The Youth of Tajikistan) newspaper was especially interested in the subject, yet when the civil war started the flow of publications subsided: the war dictated different subjects and pushed aside many socially important problems.

Peaceful subjects returned to the pages, TV screens and radio when the peace process started by the General Peace and National Harmony Agreement was signed on 27 June, 1997. Journalists and academics picked up the subject of the youth and its attitude to religion. On the whole, one can discern three major subjects that dominated the press between 1996 and 2001: the role of the clergy and Islam in the spiritual life of young people and their moral and cultural education; the youth and extremist movements; and Islamic fundamentalism, the youth, and proselytism.

The Role of the Clergy and Islam in the Spiritual Life of the Youth and Its Moral Education

Peace allowed the nation to start restoring national economy ruined by the civil war and to turn its attention to the youth and its moral health undermined by the war and the period of radical changes. The intelligentsia is using the media to discuss how to heal the moral wounds inflicted by the war, to bring back law and order and what religion can do to restore moral values. The republics specifics pushed the questions of moral education to the forefront which explains the choice of the subjects discussed below.

How does the youth treat religion and how does the press discuss the subject? What is the attitude of religion and the clergy toward the youth? How do the authors appraise the role of Islam and other religions and teachings in shaping the young peoples ideas about life and moral standards? What are their conclusions?

The answers to these questions can be found in the media. Naturally enough, the Muslim press (the Nadjot (Salvation) newspaper of the Islamic Revival Party of TajikistanIRPT) concentrated on the problem of Islam as the best instrument of moral and spiritual education of the youth.

In his article Hey, You in the Mosque! Have You Called on the People to Do Good? (Nadjot, 20 April, 2000) Salohiddin Aiubi wrote that the clergy should show more zeal in spreading the truth about Islam among the young people. He emphasized that in the recent years the youth had been inclined to overstep the limits: stealing, robbery, extramarital sex, drinking, fraudulence, prostitution, etc. had become common among the young people. The author believes that the clergy and the public in general (especially the intelligentsia) should educate the youth in the spirit of Islam. He is convinced that Islam is much more than prayers, fasts and reading of the Koran and that the clergy should make its contribution to the moral health of the rising generation.

In his article Instructions on the Way toward Self-Identity (Nadjot, 27 April, 2000) Validjan Akbar described how on an initiative of Abulvaris Abdudjabar, head of the Ura-Tiube district organization of IRPT, the youth and the entire population of Istaravshan were enriching their spiritual world with Islam. In the same article he wrote about a public channel Usurushana and its program Svoi tainy (Misteries) which offered a profound and serious talk about religion.

Khaviz Rakhmon in his article The Guide to Virtues (Nadjot, 5 May, 2000) reviews a new edition of Tartilu-l Quran by Sadriddin Aini, a prominent author and public figure of Soviet times, and tells the story of the book, reminds about the anti-religious Soviet policies that uprooted the spiritual and ethical values, created a vacuum of morality, and sent the crime rate up. The author also says that Islam and the Sharia should be taught at all levelsfrom the kindergarten up to higher educational establishments. He is convinced that the young generation should be educated in the spirit of Islamic culture and Islamic traditions and that crime and moral decline are caused by the ban of the Koran and of religious studies in schools and by many years of atheist propaganda: The reader who loves the Koran, who respects and reads it and acts according to the prescriptions of Allah will have a long, happy, and prosperous life.

Khafiz Rakhmon is convinced that the new edition of Ainis book at the time when the country is lingering in an economic and cultural crisis is a signal event that will help heal the moral and spiritual ailments, restore the nations moral health, and educate the rising generation in the spirit of Islam.

Everybody knows that rites and rituals are an important part of social and spiritual life, therefore the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan pays a lot of attention to such events in its publications. Its culture and youth department frequently organizes religious festivals in the republics capital, in smaller towns and villages. Sanghin Khalik in his Cultural Event (Nadjot, 22 December, 2000) tells how students celebrated the Ramadhan. He writes that the youth is a great creative and driving force of the future. The young people should be taught to be proud of the glorious Islamic past of their forefathersthe Islamic values firmly link generations and fortify the souls. The article points out that the youth is displaying a growing interest in the Islamic culture and Islamic ideas, and in good deeds. This enriches the young peoples views about the world and strengthens them morally and spiritually.

The problem of women has caused vigorous debates. Abulkahhar Umarov in his publication The Mother (Nadjot, 13 January, 2000) discusses the problems the women have to overcome in the course of life. Having analyzed all sides of the problem the author called on all parties, movements and public organizations to pay attention to women with children and to the problem of educating the rising generation in the Islamic traditions. The author writes that this is the road toward a healthier society and that Islam has never excluded women from social life. In fact, it is striving to offer women better conditions for their public activities. Women and girls may be instrumental in overcoming the present crisis of morality, yet this should be done according to the Islamic prescriptions on which the national values and national culture of the Tajiks are based.

Young academic Khafiz Rakhman in his article The Riddle of Woman: Morals and History, Comparisons and Ideas (Nadjot, 26 June, 2000) discusses the position of women with children and the womens role in educating the younger generation in Arabia and Adsham, in the West, and in the Islamic world. He compares the attitude of Islam and Christianity toward women and girls, the extent they enjoy rights and freedoms in the family and society, concludes that Islam provides more chances to improve their moral standards, and adds that in the recent years morals, spirituality and religion declined and that amoral behavior, depravity and prostitution have filled in the moral vacuum: If we want to have a future we should educate our girls in the spirit of Islam and the millennia-old culture of our ancestors, writes he.

In her article Women Clothes (Nadjot, 13 July, 2000) Sabznigor Khasanova looks at the clothing that the Tajik women and girls prefer today and their desire to follow Western and European fashions from the point of view of Islam. She writes: Today Tajik women and girls prefer the European style that is far removed from the Islamic culture and customs. This clothing leads to moral degradation, and further: Fascination with European fashions and Western values has reached the point when our Afghan and Iranian sisters prefer naked West for the sake of urban styles and clothes. I do not believe that they remember Allah. Women protest and say that they want freedom. In response Khasanova refers to Freud and says that freedom cannot be absolute: Abandonment of ethnic styles means that we move further away from Islamic culture. The women and girls should dress themselves according to the prescriptions of the Sharia of the Prophet Muhammad and be proud of their moral purity and modesty.

In his article Can We Build a State Amid So Much Trouble? (Nadjot, 15 June, 2000) Vakif Zia says that distorted rituals are destroying the nations moral health. He tells a story about a village of Pongoz (the Asht District) with a population of 24 thousand living in 20 quarters. In the past members of one quarter believed that it was improper to attend wedding feasts in other quarters. Today, not only young men but also girls and young women with children impose themselves on wedding feasts in other quarters, they take place at the table in defiance of generally accepted norms. The feasts cost little fortunes with invited actors and a lot of vodka. Quite often such events end in fighting. The author believes that the Russian TV is responsible for the decline of public morals: for several years now people have had no chance to watch Tajik programs though there are neither technical nor financial obstacles to this. Market relations are also to blame for the changed norms of public conduct and for drug and alcohol abuse. The morals of the young women and girls have declined, high Tajik morals are the thing of the past, prostitution is an everyday phenomenon, and the Tajik language is declining. This speaks of the nations depleted spirituality, especially evident among the youth, explained by that fact that the Islamic values have been abandoned. The author believes that the only way out of the deep moral and spiritual crisis lies through wide-scale propaganda of the high and pure Islamic values. Vakif Zia concludes: The Islamic remedy can heal all the ailments of our society.

Kamariddin Afzal, former head of the youth sector of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, in an article We Should Emulate Our Past (Nadjot, 27 July, 2000) offers an analysis of the present situation in the country. He points to economic problems, unemployment, crime, moral degradation, prostitution, abandonment of the traditional Islamic values, and Western influences. He believes that an Islamic organization of the youth will help society recover by educating the growing generation in the spirit of the Islamic values, by offering it more knowledge and opening wider horizons in front of it. The author hurls bitter criticism at the authorities that are stubbornly ignoring the problems of the youth. The result is a high level of crime, prostitution and drug trafficking among the young people. He says that the media talk a lot about moral decline and spiritual poverty of the young, yet never look deeper at their roots. The deplorable state of things is explained by the fact that the youth has never been exposed to Islamic culture and was deprived of the Islamic background of the Tajik national culture. The author offers a remedy: new curricula for the secondary school, higher status of teachers and intelligentsia, higher wages for those who teach children and young people, and better funding of the sphere of education and culture. These steps will raise the level of education in schools and higher educational establishments and will help educate the youth in the best traditions of human and Islamic culture.

Kurbonali Kholmurodov in his The Heart Warmed by Fire (Nadjot, 6 April, 2001) says that Islam is spreading across the world and that its high spiritual values attract new followers in all corners of the world. He tells a story about a Russian youth who embraced Islam and explains what attracted him to this religion. The number of Muslims is growing all the time at the expense of converted Christians in Tajikistan, Russia, and elsewhere. The thesis is supported by a story of a 21-year-old Russian girl Anna Iurieva who lived in Khakassia and who embraced Islam after a period of intensive spiritual quest.

Makhtum Saidnazarov in his article Islam and Freedom (Nadjot, 19 January, 2001) postulates that man living in society cannot be absolutely free because God established spiritual and ethical frameworks for man. Those who transgress them can no longer be regarded as human beings. Religion is a beacon that shows the road from darkness and ignorance to light, and from total oblivion to eternal life. When holding forth about freedom from the Islamic point of view the author points out that Islam guarantees freedom of opinion, it protects the rights of women and girls, it guarantees a certain educational level. The article says that freedom according to the West spells individualism that society, its requirements and demands cannot curb and that leads to a collapse. The West has reached material heights and has fallen down into a spiritual crisis.

The article If You Want To Be Happy at All Times by Muhiddin Sipekhr (Nadjot, 9 February, 2001) has also addressed the subject of spiritual education in Islam. It is based on an interview with the chairman of the Ura-Tiube organization of IRPT. The journalist raised the questions of the declining morals among the youth and the role of Islam in remedying the present moral climate.

The party functionary says that crime and amoral behavior among the youth have increased as a result of the civil war and the economic crisis. The young people are moving further away from the Tajik national culture and the traditional moral norms. Society has to pay a high price for this: drugs and drug trafficking are two major social sores. The republic has become a link on the road along which drugs travel from Afghanistan to Russia and further on to Europeunemployment and poverty pushes young people to drug trafficking. Drug abuse is spreading locally. The author says that moral, spiritual, and cultural education based on Islam is the only correct answer.

In his article The Plague of the 20th Century Has Been Brought into the 21st Century (Nadjot, 9 September, 2001) Mekhrovar Muhammadi looks at possible solutions to the problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking. He points out that religion and respected religious leaders have a special role to play in the societys recovery. He believes that the Committee for TV and Radio of Tajikistan should join forces with the Council of the Ulemas to make TV and radio programs that will restore in young people an interest in real life and its moral laws and values. He sees spiritual education based on the republics ancient culture and the Islamic values as the only correct answer to the plague of the 20th century.

Other Islamic publications pay a lot of attention to drug abuse and the efforts to stem it. They also give much space to the criticism of the Western way of thought, Western values and morals and do not conceal their concern over their spread in the republic and their negative influence in the society.

Olimdjon Aemov, Chairman of the Frunze district IRPT organization, in his article Common Aim Leads to a Stronger Country (Nadjot, 13 January, 2000) looks at the problem of moral and cultural education of the youth. He is convinced that the declined spirituality and disregard for the cultural values are responsible for rising crime that causes losses comparable to those inflicted by the economic crisis. Islam alone can fill in the spiritual vacuum.

Saida Islomova in her article At a Glance (Nadjot, 1 February, 2001) writes that Western influence is spreading among the youth and this cannot but cause concern. The author and the people she interviewed agreed that the Western values and the way of life did not suit Tajikistans social life, therefore they undermined the moral climate and sowed perversion among young men and women.

In his article entitled Science Is the Beacon in the Darkness of Night (Nadjot, 24 December, 2000) Muhiddin Sipekhr points out to declining morality and spirituality. He criticizes Western propaganda of the cult of force and sexual permissiveness that reaches the republic through the cinema. He calls on the people to oppose the Western cultural expansion by disseminating the Islamic cultural values and norms. He believes that the media should produce more materials that can attract attention of the young people and that would help promote the Islamic values, culture and ethics. This will give a chance to those armed with high Islamic morals and spirituality to find their place in life and create a better future for themselves and society.

The role of TV, the press, theater, cinema, and video in the moral education of the youth is the subject of an article by Kholik Ashraf Do Not Hurt Deliberately (Nadjot, 18 May, 2000). He writes that propaganda of violence and pornography in Western films and videos has dealt a deathly blow at society, it is ruining public morals and negatively affects the rising generation. Such films can be bought in many places in Dushanbe, other cities and even villages. There are places where people can watch them and to which the state has never extended its control. The author believes that these places and the shops that sell similar videos should be either closed down or placed under a strict control of the state. He invites the government and the religious figures to pay serious attention to the moral and cultural education of the youth.

The journalist Khurshed Atoullo in his article When Lies Fly High (Javononi Tochikiston, 30 March, 2000) discusses how the young people spend their leisure and what the cultural and educational organizations in the Sogd Region are doing in this respect. To his mind free time hangs heavily on the hands of boys and girls because the institutions of culture in Ura-Tiube and Khujand are in an appalling condition. The video saloons show films that advocate pornography and the cult of force and that destroy the remnants of spirituality in the hearts and souls of the young people.

The author is convinced that the crumbling national self-identity, declining interest in science and culture, abandonment of the traditional social and ethical norms are the sad yet logical results of the decline in the sphere of culture and education. He tries to find the correct answer to the mighty flow of alien ideology and morals that has been flooding the republic in the post-Soviet times.

The above concise review of the Islamic press has shown that Islamic education and restoration of the Muslim cultural and ethical values receive a lot of attention in the media. In fact, atheist propaganda of the Soviet period undermined Islamic religious education in Tajikistan and drove Islam into the family limits. The religion lost its ability to develop theology. The lost possibilities can be restored through increased attention to education, dissemination of Islamic norms and values, and development of the Islamic studies. The Islamic journalists and the clergy are convinced that the youth as the most responsive group that represents the republics future should receive more attention.

The Islamic press reflects the ideological struggle that is unfolding in the republic and is caused by the transformations underway in Tajikistan. Market relations and fast social stratification have divided the previously homogenous society into the rich and the poor, changed the way of life, and distorted the values and morals.

The Youth and the Extremist Trends, Islamic Fundamentalists

The official publications concentrate on the extremist trends. When the civil war started and until the General Peace and National Harmony Agreement was signed the official press called all Islamic movements, and the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, extremist movements that fanned the war. When the agreement had been signed, the armed forces of the United Tajik Opposition had joined the government troops, and IRPT had become a legal party the situation changed dramatically. Since that time on the party is rarely classed among the extremist organizations. The official media have described the following organizations and movements as extremist: Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Movement of Kyrgyzstan (IMK), the Islamic Organization of Liberation of Chinese Uighuristan, and the Taliban. In his address to the intelligentsia of 20 March, 2001 President of Tajikistan Rakhmonov said: We all know that religious extremism, fanaticism, and prejudices that have nothing in common with the holy religion of Islam are still rooted in our society. It is our task to find, identify, and discover them. Look at the atrocities perpetrated by religious extremism represented by the Taliban. It has blended extremism, chauvinism, and fanaticism. As a result, whole peoples are exterminated en masse, the Tajiks among them, historical and cultural monuments are destroyed without pity (Culture Is the Nations Life, Omuzgor, 4 April, 2001). The president also said that education of the youth could stop extremism.

Speaker of the parliament Saydullo Khayrulloev in his article The Land of Rasht Breathes Freely (Sadoi mardum, 11 January, 2001) writes about the negative influences that Islam fundamentalist movements extend to society and the youth. He tries to find ways and methods of stemming such influences by using the Rasht-Karategin Valley as an example. He says that at all times people who lived there were guarding their faith. The youth supported the opposition during the civil war. Peace came to the valley after the peace agreement has been signed. The speaker deliberates about Islamic influences on the youth and emphasizes that the young people should study secular sciences rather than Islam and that they should keep away from Islamic extremist groups of all sorts.

Hizb ut-Tahrir attracts the greatest attention: Kurbonali Mukhabatov, public prosecutor of the Sogd Region, has published his article Hizb ut-Tahrir Is a Party of Destruction, a Party of Adventurers that Will End up Badly in Sadoi mardum (19 August, 2000). He tells the story of the party, described its progress and growing membership, and says that it wants to seize power in the Sogd Region and Central Asia as a whole. He believes that the party relies on pan-Islamism as an ideological basis, its final aim being a jihad against the infidels followed by toppling down the existing state order. The public prosecutor gives details about Hizb ut-Tahrir activities in the valley of Hissar and Vakhsh and says that it relies on the youth as the most gullible social group. He is convinced that the young people between 15 and 25 are easily converted and that those who join the party know next to nothing about Islam and the partys real aims and true nature. In conclusion the official calls on the people to help the law enforcement structures fight the partys subversive activities.

In his article Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Party of Islamic Liberation (Narodnaia gazeta, 22 June, 2000) Rakhim Makhmudzod describes how the party came into being, how it was spreading its ideas and formulating its aims and tasks, and regrets that recently it has won supporters in Tajikistan. The majority of its followers are young Uzbeks between 15 and 25. The author says that the state and society should not remain passive and should explain the essence of Hizb ut-Tahrir and other extremist movements so that people know that they should keep away from these movements. The same author tells more about Hizb ut-Tahrir in an article called A Fertile Soil for Extremism (Bizness i politika, 1 September, 2000) and offers his thoughts about the causes and social roots of extremism and its attraction for the youth. He believes that this happens because people are poor, the cultural and moral standards are declining, spiritual life is non-existent while the traditional economic, cultural, scientific, and trade contacts with the Central Asian neighbors remain disrupted. The extremist trends are filling in the vacuum left by the Soviet Unions disintegration. The author says that extremism can be stemmed by better life and better education.

The Islamic clergy and the leaders of the United Tajik Opposition are also opposed to extremism. Sulton Khamadov, press secretary of the IRPT chairman, in his article Liberation or Threat (Mizon, 5 October, 2000) tells how the party appeared and why it became popular in Tajikistan. He believes that it owes its success in Tajikistan to the state that suppressed IRPTs legal activities. In the section called The Official Clergy of Tajikistan about Hizb ut-Tahrir the author quotes the official clergy and members of the republics Islamic Council who condemn all members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

In his article The Caliphate Smacks of Strife (Jumhuriat, 29 July, 2000) Hajji Husain Musazadeh, Chairman of the Council of the Ulemas of the Sogd Region, writes that the official clergy and the leaders of the IRPT rejected the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir and condemn what it is doing. The author emphasizes that the Muslims of Tajikistan, the youth especially, should not allow dissemination of its ideas. He calls it a new threat.

On the whole, between 1996 and today there appeared many publications about extremist and fundamentalist movements, especially about Hizb ut-Tahrir. They reflect the struggle that is going on between two powerful forces: first, ethnic nationalism that is being actively forged into a state ideology. In many respects it is supported by IRPT as a national Islamic party and the official clergy as part of the republics political establishment. Second, this is a desire to integrate under an Islamic umbrella: this is how the Central Asian nations responded to the division of their region into ethnic states.

The Youth and Proselytism

As soon as the Soviet Union had ceased to exist missionaries ready to plant their faiths in the ideological and spiritual vacuum left by the uprooted communist ideology rushed to the newly independent states. The situation in Tajikistan was even worse than elsewhere: the civil war drove away many members of the local intelligentsia while social thought was stalling. The missionaries remained activethey zealously promoted their ideas ranging from Bahaism, Christian faiths, Zoroastrianism, Krishnaism, to Satanism. The republican leaders did nothing to stem aggressive proselytism. This is explained by the logic of political struggle in which the governmental secularists and Islamists have found themselves on the opposite sides of the barricades. The official authorities tolerated the missionaries in a hope of limiting the Islamists influence, yet the society could not match this with tolerance and liberalism. The missionaries and their activities started heated debates in the press.

Academician Muhammadjon Shakuri in his article Nation, Motherland, and the Faith have No Alternatives (Istiklol, 8 May, 1997) says that in the traditionally Islamic areas people should not be allowed to look for religious alternatives. He refers to sociological polls that said that 60 percent of the respondents believe that the newly acquired independence allowed people to select religious cults and says that Islam in the traditional areas is closely connected with culture as its integral part and cannot therefore be replaced with any other religion.

In another article The World Cannot Tolerate Religious Variety (Jumhuriat, 5 July, 1997) the author continues his deliberations about religious propaganda and its influence on the youth. He calls on the republican authorities to support Islam, strengthen it and drive the alien sects from Tajikistan. He writes that missionaries are active in all post-Soviet states and that everywhere the public is also watching them with anxiety. There is an intention to limit their activities in Russia, Kazakhstan and other states. He writes: The propagandists who came from other countries and who caught our youth into their nets are developing their religions with political aims in view. They want to expand and increase their influence so that to divide the nation. The history of all Oriental countries says that religious missionaries were pursuing their political and colonialist aims there, were fighting Islam and undermined the nations.

Vadim Zaichenko in Tajiks in Non-Islamic Prayer Houses (Istiklol, 7 May, 1997) has also touched upon the problem of foreign religious propaganda. He says that some of the Tajiks, especially young people, abandon Islam for the sake of Christian faiths (Baptism, Catholicism, Lutheran church, Adventists, the Jehovahs Witnesses), and also Bahaism, Zoroastrianism, etc.

In his article Tajiks Adopt Christianity (Javononi Tochikiston, 27 May, 1999) Azizbek Dakhbedi writes about subversive activities of non-Islamic foreign centers in the republic, the negative effects of such activities and the methods used to attract young people to non-Islamic religious sects. The author has made an attempt to look below the surface, to find out why missionaries have come to the republic in the first place and supplies interesting details and arguments when writing about each of the Christian trends present in the cities and districts. He describes who follow the missionaries, how old these people are, how they are lured away from Islam and what sorts of publications translated into the Tajik and Russian they read. He says that the missionaries prefer to deal with the young people, they offer them money and commodities, invite them to all kinds of sport clubs, including martial arts, and give them a chance to study abroad. This explains why the non-Islamic sects have no problems with membership.

By way of conclusion the author says that the non-Islamic sects are not the only newcomers on the religious scene. There is any number of cannibalistic and satanic sects and there were several cases of ritual vampirism and cannibalism in the Kolkhozabad and Kabodian districts, in Khujand and Dushanbe. The author demands that the state structures, the Ministry of Security in particular, should stop these activities and believes that a Law on Religion will be useful in this situation.

Mirza Ieribek in his Born by a Muslim but Joined the Christian Church (Mizon, 5 August 2000) offers his story about subversive activities of religious propagandists and the methods employed by the missionaries. He analyzes various sides of religious teachings and sects and concludes that they are funded from the Vatican, the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, etc. These people abuse poverty in Tajikistan, deceive young boys and girls by offering them money and consumer goods, and employ other, even dirtier methods and means. The author points out that there are about 10 thousand Tajiks among the Baptists between 20 and 40 years of age. The Protestant Korean Church has even a larger following36 thousand, the ages ranging from 15 to 35. There are no exact figures about other sects.

One can say about the public discussion of proselytism that harsh criticism of the foreign missionaries was caused not only by the rivalry for the minds and souls of the rising generation. After the Soviet Unions disintegration and a gradual crumbling of the imperial consciousness in Tajikistan and other post-Soviet states the newly independent nations have been engaged in a search for new identities. Who are Tajiks? people ask themselves. Are they citizens of their republic, or an ethnic entity or followers of the same religion? What can unite all those who live in this new country? What place can Islam take in it? What sort of relations should exist between Islam and the state?

So far there are no answers to these urgent questions yet one thing is clear: they have penetrated the minds of people and stopped being a weapon used in armed struggle. Society rejected force as an answer to ideological contradictions and is prepared to openly discuss all important questions, taking into account different views and positions that crop up in public disputes. One can also say that all religious and political forces of Tajikistan are competing for the minds and souls of the youth. They know that the future belongs to it.


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