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Girls & Women

This Predominantly Muslim Country Just Passed a New Law That Discourages Women From Wearing Hijabs

mehmet nevzat/Flickr

Tajikistan has officially joined the growing list of countries to place a controversial ban on Islamic dress.

 The difference between Tajikistan and most of the other countries that regulate Islamic dress? More than 90% of the country’s population identifies with the Muslim faith.

 Although the new law does not specifically mention hijabs or burqas, it requires people to “stick to traditional national clothes and culture” — a move seen as an attempt to stop women from donning the Islamic veil. As of yet, the law doesn’t introduce a penalty for breaking the rule.

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Women in the central Asian country traditionally tie a scarf behind their head, rather than using a hijab, which wraps under the chin.

The country’s Minister of Culture, Shamsiddin Orumbekzoda, told Radio Free Europe that Islamic dress was “really dangerous.”

“Everyone looks at them with concern, worried that they could be hiding something under their hijab,” he said.  

Before the new legislation, Tajikistani lawmakers already had measures in place to combat what they have called an “alien” culture.

Read More: Activists Have Perfect (and Hilarious) Responses to France’s Burkini Ban

Women wearing hijabs are already banned from entering government buildings and in early August, 8,000 women wearing hijabs in the capital of Dushanbe were ordered to wear their scarves in the “Tajik style” after they were approached by officials.

The country’s president, Emomali Rahmon, has long criticized women for wearing the headscarves.  

“Wearing the hijab and blindly copying a culture that is foreign to us is not the sign of having high moral and ethical standards for women,” he said in 2015. In the same year, he had the ministry begin to prepare samples of national women’s clothing, “in order to avoid wearing foreign clothes.”

Rahmon’s country is not the only one to impose a dress code that regulates Islamic women’s attire.

France was the first European country to ban the burqa in 2011, a body-length garment that also covers the entire face, when a law that was seven years in the making came into full effect. Today, anyone caught wearing the niqab, which covers all but a women’s eyes, or burqa is fined $180.

For Muslim women in Belgium, the repercussions are even more severe. Wearing full-face veils in public areas could land them up to seven days in jail, or a $1,645 fine.

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In addition to upholding these bans, the European Union’s top court ruled this year that employers are allowed to ban the “visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious signs,” including hijabs.  

At the same time, women who wear headscarves are taking a stand.

In May, artist Mona Haydar, released her first single, “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab),” which talks about her dream of making “a feminist planet where women-haters get banished.”

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“Covered up or not,” she and her fellow hijabi women rap in the music video, “never take us for granted.”  

Last year, a German Muslim teenager designed new hijabi emojis for the millions of Muslim women across the world who couldn’t represent themselves via text, and young female athletes have begun competing in hijabs after Nike launched a sportswear line.

“I have to decide for myself what to wear,” Oinikhol Bobonazarova, a Tajikistani human rights activist, told Radio Free Europe. “No one has the right to tell me, ‘You have to wear this.’”