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By Dilafruz Nabiyeva
DUSHANBE – Fearing social radicalisation, Tajik authorities are encouraging women to wear traditional Tajik clothing instead of Muslim dress.
But pressure from keeping up with fashions - or from their husbands - is still driving women to wear the hijab, leading to controversy.
The Islamic Centre of Tajikistan’s Council of Ulema recommended that mosques urge Tajik women to wear traditional religious clothing rather than the more conservative foreign-derived hijab, Kobiljon Boyev, head of the Islamic Centre’s Fatwa Department, said.
“This recommendation does not imply a ban on Islamic clothing,” he said. “Our women’s traditional clothing is much better and more attractive than what recently has been imported.”
Objections reach to the top. President Emomali Rakhmon has criticised Tajik women for wearing imported Muslim clothing.
The recommendations have not stopped people from buying hijabs, and the number of women on Dushanbe’s streets wearing hijabs imported from Turkey and Iran is growing.
At an always-crowded Dushanbe Market store selling Muslim clothing, Shoira Jalilova, 17, was striking a deal with a saleswoman for some headscarves. She was wearing a scarf that was tied differently from what one would have seen five years ago. Worn her way, it becomes a hijab.
“I tie it under my chin to cover my neck,” she said. “Now, these are the scarves all the girls are trying to wear, not the ones from before, which were tied in the back.”
A hijab costs US $5-30, depending on colour and quality, said Kamol Hajmiddinov, owner of another store. “If you are interested in a full outfit, including a jacket and bloomers, then the high-quality goods from Turkey cost up to US $100.”
Many women wear the hijab because they are afraid they will not find a husband or that their husbands will reject them, psychologist Zarifa Vasifova said.
Hajmiddinov’s wife wears a paranja (similar to a burqa). “I do not want anyone else but me looking at my wife,” he said. “She is not against wearing the paranja, which covers her face. Had she refused, I would have divorced her.”
Nargis Valiyeva, 23, does not think that wearing the hijab adds to her spirituality.
“In principle, if my husband will insist, I will probably have to accept his will. But I think that Muslim clothing does not make a man or woman any more devout. What is most important is what you say in your soul and that you do no ill.”
Some people see the hijab as repressive.
“You walk around town, and you sometimes get the feeling that you’ve landed in some version of the Dark Ages, where women no longer have any rights and freedoms,” Manzura Hamidova, a business manager, said. “In general, I would place restrictions on importing such clothes.”
But others say it is simply the fashion of the day.
“This is just a fashion trend,” saleswoman Zuhra Yusupova said. “But every year there are more of these women (who wear it to be fashionable).”
The nationwide scene backs up the idea that it is just a fashion.
“Take a look at who’s wearing the hijab in the remote mountain districts,” Dushanbe resident Alisher Amirov said. “No one. This is only in Dushanbe. A friend of mine recently dressed his wife in a hijab and then took her to his parents in Muminabad. He said that his wife was a black sheep there, because no one there wears such clothes.”
The idea of the hijab just being a fashion statement rankles some.
The hijab is a piece of clothing that women put on once and for all – it is impossible to wear it for fashion, fashion designer Malika Hamrayeva said.
Satin dresses and skullcaps for women are Tajikistan’s national heritage.
“We must preserve this,” State Committee for Religious Affairs chairman Saidbek Mahmadullayev said.
“It would be good not to lose our traditions in this age of globalisation. Muslim women’s attire will hardly protect women from evil glances or deeds.”
We must not forget our national traditions,” Boyev said. “The paranja, which fully covers the face and body and leaves only a slit for the eyes, is not part of our tradition and can have negative consequences for our country.”