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Sughd wraps up 1st stage of imam certification
Certification deemed important to security, mullahs’ competence
By Negmatullo Mirsaidov
KHUDZHAND – Northern Tajikistan has concluded the first phase of certifying its imam-hatibs.
Sughd Oblast has completed the first offering of the nationwide imam-hatib certification process as set forth by the Tajik government. The process will start again soon.
Certification will increase the quality of the mullahs and protect the country from radical propaganda, commentators say.
45 imams out of 991 failed
Of the 991 imams who went through the certification process, which started in January, 45 did not pass the exams; another 582 received permission to lead mosques for one year, after which they will need to undergo recertification; 182 will have to be tested again in six months; and another 182 will need to re-test again in three months, according to the Sughd Oblast Department of Religious Affairs. The duration between certifications was based on how well the imams did on the certification exam.
The department said 162 mosque clerics ignored the testing process.
Mosque administrators received the exam results along with the committee decisions, Hussein Shokirov, director of the Administrative Department of Tajikistan’s Committee on Religious Affairs, told Central Asia Online.
Undergoing such certification represents a sound form of self-education, said Khodzhi Hussein Musozoda, chairman of the Sughd Oblast Ulema Council and imam-hatib of Khudzhand’s Khodzha Maslakhiddin Mosque.
“The certification pushed the leaders of the clergy to improve their knowledge,” he said. “They were convinced that knowing the Holy Koran by heart alone wasn’t enough to obtain a mandate to lead the mosque. ... I don’t think there is anything wrong with knowing the secular laws along with sharia for an imam-hatib, whose voice is heard by thousands.”
Others said the certification is going too far.
“The complaints brought against many imam-hatibs are fair,” said Hoshim Boboyev, the imam-hatib of Sari Hisor Mosque in Chorkuh Zhamoat, Isfara District. “However, receiving an education is voluntary.”
Concerns about extremism
Farrukh Ahrorov, director of the Sughd Oblast media group MGM, called the government’s actions “logical” in light of growing activity by extremist organisations.
“In essence, the certification is intended to bring mosques’ activities under state control,” said Abdusattor Boboyev, director of the Islamic Renaissance Party’s Isfara District branch.
Sughd Oblast Bar Association Chairman Mokhir Usmonov expressed hope the “members of the exam committee are guided by only one criterion: knowledge, not political beliefs.”
The second phase of testing will start soon, said Mahkam Mirkamolov, chief of the Sughd Oblast Department of Religious Affairs. The 162 mosque clerics who ignored the certification process the first time will be allowed to enrol this time. If those imam-hatibs ignore the attestation process again, they will be forced to abandon their positions without a chance to return.
Certification programme is lawful
The certification “is being conducted in full accordance with Tajikistan’s Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations and has no political motivations,” Mirkamolov said.
“We intend to ensure that truly educated people, distinguished by a high level of both religious and secular knowledge, lead the mosques,” he said. “Our main aim is keep religious fanaticism and extremism from manifesting themselves ... in religious organisations.”
If imam-hatibs are truly committed to their work, they should undergo the certification process, said theologian Emonali Aisorov.
“The certification does not constitute any threat to any truly educated imam-hatib,” he said. “They are simply being asked to confirm their knowledge. ... Last year, there were multiple bombings and attacks by militants, and ... there were cases where some imams were ... so the government’s actions are absolutely justified.”