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To Forestall Violent Extremism in Tajikistan, Promote Spiritual Freedom – The Diplomat

The Debate | Opinion | Central Asia

Washington ought to promote and immediately incorporate spiritual freedom coaching as a requirement for Tajikistan to obtain support.

Tajikistan is situated in a harmful neighborhood, sharing an extended border with Afghanistan that could be a rising concern amid the approaching U.S. withdrawal. Whereas america engages with Tajikistan on such safety points, the federal government of Tajikistan continues to function underneath the fallacy that safety requires strict management of faith, justifying gross violations of spiritual freedom and facilitating a deeply counterproductive technique for stopping and countering violent extremism. 

Given these circumstances, U.S. help to Tajikistan ought to include situations, and mustn’t ignore or condone home insurance policies that generate the sorts of grievances that contribute to radicalization. As a substitute, the U.S. ought to promote and immediately incorporate spiritual freedom coaching as a requirement to obtain support. Analysis has discovered such coaching to be an efficient antidote to violent extremism, and worldwide our bodies just like the Group for Safety and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations have really useful it as greatest follow. 

President Emomali Rahmon, who final 12 months gained a fraudulent reelection with a staggering 91 p.c of the vote, promotes a monolithic, state-controlled model of Islam that punishes non-conformity. The federal government has closed greater than 2,000 mosques since 2017, changing many into cafes, film theaters, or factories — even because it paradoxically prepares to open the largest mosque in Central Asia, in a position to accommodate greater than 150,000 worshippers. Such massive central mosques are staffed by imams appointed and paid by the state. The federal government dictates or approves the content material of sermons, usually with the inclusion of express reward for the Rahmon regime. 

The meant message is obvious: The one acceptable type of Islam is official, extremely centralized, and nationalistic. 

Tajikistan’s extremism legal guidelines are additionally imprecise and expansive, enabling the federal government to criminalize most speech or habits it opposes. Safety forces spherical up younger males with beards and forcibly shave them, whereas girls who put on hijabs are publicly shamed and even denied primary providers like drugs and schooling. The federal government has additionally focused political opponents, essential journalists and media shops, and even naïve social media customers who “like” content material deemed to be extremist. These people are funneled right into a decrepit and overcrowded jail system, cramming violent Islamists along with many who’re falsely imprisoned. 

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The Rahmon regime repeatedly identifies political opposition with extremism and terrorism. This calculus, which units a monolithic state-approved faith in opposition to an exaggerated host of horrifying radicals, has been counterproductive. Research present that elevated spiritual freedom really diminishes the relative affect of radical teams by exposing people to a number of messages and views. Violent Islamist fighters, for instance, constantly reveal low ranges of data about precise Islamic thought and doctrine. 

Certainly, a big proportion of respondents in latest research on radicalization in Tajikistan declare that spiritual illiteracy makes people extra susceptible to extremist recruiting. The nation’s overcrowded prisons have turn out to be a significant vector for the unfold of violent extremism, as many imprisoned on bogus or frivolous extremism fees are subjected to inhumane situations alongside precise violent extremists. These conditioned to understand all spiritual non-conformity as opposition, and even insurrection, usually tend to turn out to be radical. 

Think about the case of Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov, the commander of an elite police unit within the Ministry of Inner Affairs, who in Could 2015 launched a video swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. As a extremely educated officer with intimate data of Tajikistan’s safety infrastructure, Khalimov’s defection was a devastating blow to the nation and a boon to terrorists. By 2016, the Islamic State allegedly appointed him minister of struggle. Khalimov claimed to have been radicalized by way of observing and taking part within the authorities’s marketing campaign in opposition to Islam. He equated these anti-Islamic insurance policies with “democracy” and known as on Tajikistani residents to fight it by becoming a member of the Islamic State. By main Khalimov to conflate “democracy” with anti-religious authoritarianism, the federal government’s insurance policies contributed to a dynamic during which opposition was extra readily equated with violent extremism.

In distinction to those failed approaches, efficient U.S. authorities engagement with Tajikistan ought to emphasize the significance of spiritual freedom to reaching sustainable safety. For instance, USAID opened its first full growth mission in Tajikistan in October 2020. This program ought to embody assist for spiritual freedom as a part of its instructional outreach. The State Division must also embody spiritual freedom coaching for Tajikistani officers as a part of U.S. safety help, laying out the advantages of spiritual freedom in countering violent extremism. Such applications can be far more practical in assembly the challenges that precise violent teams just like the Islamic State pose, by selling the social advantages of spiritual tolerance and pluralism whereas ending the self-defeating cycle of grievances that present Tajikistani coverage generates. 

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