The Islamic headscarf began as a religious commitment over 1,400 years ago, recently transformed into a political statement, and now seems to be taking on the face of Islamic extremism for some fearful and paranoid political leaders.
As of this month, authorities of Khujand, a city in Tajikistan, are keeping track of women who choose to cover their heads for religious purposes in an attempt to assuage alleged radical Islamic beliefs. The list is currently over 600 names long.
Authorities, however, do not see the colorful traditional Tajik headscarf as a threat.
This is not the first time the secular leadership of the Muslim majority country has cracked down on forms of Islamic worship or outward display of Muslim identity.
In the past, children under the age of 18 were banned from entering mosques, families were penalized for giving their children Arabic names, and the hijab was disallowed from being worn in public educational institutions.
Earlier this year, nearly 13,000 men were forced to shave off their beards, which are commonly grown to follow the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. Around the same time, 160 shops selling Islamic clothing were shut down and over 1,700 women were “persuaded” to stop wearing hijab.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in its annual report that, “The government of Tajikistan suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control.”
The drift that began during the civil war in late nineties when President Imomali Rakhmon shut down his Islamist opposition, killing hundreds of thousands, has continued to deepen as today’s terrorist organizations spread across continents.
Ironically, countermeasures like those of Khujand’s are only breeding grounds for terrorist recruits. Politicians put in place self-fulfilling prophecies with their policies meant to weed out the good from the bad, feeding idle individuals already exposed to hatred and oppressive regimes with recipes for disaster.