Trouble in Central Asia
13,000 Beards Shaved in Tajikistan to Fight Radicalism

Determined to stamp out Islamic fundamentalism, the government of Tajikistan has taken forcibly to shaving its citizens’s beards, among other outlandish measures. The Washington Post reports:

In a bid to curb Islamist radicalization, authorities in the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan shaved the beards off nearly 13,000 men in the country. They also shut down about 160 shops selling traditional Islamic garb and supposedly “convinced” more than 1,700 women to stop wearing hijabs, or head coverings

[. . . ]

The secular regime of President Imomali Rakhmon is known for its hard-line opposition to political Islam. From 1992 to 1997, Tajikistan endured a bitter civil war between government forces loyal to Rakhmon and an Islamist opposition. Estimates suggest that 50,000 to 100,000 people were killed.

This is not a sign that things are trending in the right direction. The potential for radical jihadi groups to destabilize Central Asia, where many states are still fragile and others are under tight dictatorial lockdown, keeps both Russian and Chinese officials awake at night. And with millions of migrants from these countries living in Russia, the threat of jihadi ideology is very real.

One can sympathize with the worried authorities, but forcibly shaving off beards and closing those clothing stores seems more like a gesture than a policy. You can’t change what goes on inside someone’s head by shaving a beard or banning a hijab.

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