Activists Reassert Muslim Culture in Tadzhikistan

By Justin Burke, | The Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 1991 | Go to article overview

Activists Reassert Muslim Culture in Tadzhikistan


Justin Burke,, The Christian Science Monitor


WITH most of her 10 children in tow, Kumat Daulatova methodically moved down the rows, picking cotton and flicking it into a huge sack.

During the harvest season she'll pick cotton 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and will earn only about 10 rubles (32 cents at the tourist exchange rate) per day, Mrs. Daulatova said. Many of her children work the same hours.

"The Communists are responsible for this. Down with the Communists," Daulatova said. "I don't know how they live in Iran, but if we have an Islamic republic then I'm sure our lives will become better. I would be able to sit at home and raise the children properly while my husband works."

Daulatova's views are shared by many in the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of 5.1 million. Resentful of the Communist system they feel has impoverished them, many of the mostly rural residents of Tadzhikistan appear anxious for a return of fundamentalist Islamic values.

Tadzhikistan has been the scene of political unrest since Sept. 21, when the communist-dominated parliament repealed a ban on the Communist Party, which was renamed the Socialist Party following the failed August coup attempt. It also ousted interim President Kadriddin Aslonov and replaced him with former Communist Party boss Rakhman Nabiyev.

There have been fears, especially among ethnic Russians, that Islamic leaders would use the unstable political situation to push for a fundamentalist revolution. Islamic political leaders support a democratic republic, however, saying it is premature to establish a religious state because the general knowledge of Islamic culture is too low.

"For 73 years people were separated from Islam," says the leader of the Islamic Revival Party, Mullah Mukhamedsharif Khimatzoda, referring to the Communist era. "Maybe 80 percent of the population is Muslim, but the percentage of those who truly know Islam is much lower."

But in Yakatut, a village 50 miles south of the capital Dushanbe, residents demonstrated a good knowledge of Islamic culture.

After the Bolsheviks seized power in 1917, they cracked down on Islam in Central Asia, bulldozing mosques and burning books, as well as changing the alphabet from Arabic script to a localized version of the Cyrllic alphabet. …

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