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Tajik Mullahs Go on Government Payroll
Muslim clerics at Tajikistan’s larger mosques begin receiving government salaries this month, in a controversial move that some see as eroding the divide between state and religion.
The pay-scale runs from the equivalent of 160 to 300 US dollars a month depending on the importance of the mosque. The prayer-leader at the central mosque in the capital Dushanbe will get 400 a month.
The head of the government’s religious affairs committee, Abdurrahim Kholikov, says the pay should be seen as a kind of welfare benefit designed to encourage clerics to do a better job.
The committee has produced a 300-page handbook for mosque prayer-leaders which sets out 45 suitable topics for Friday sermons.
Others point out that the governments of a number of secular states provide similar funding for clerics.
Opponents of the scheme say it is just the latest move to impose control and co-opt clerics by a government fearful of the spread of radical Islam. Mahmadali Khait, deputy head of the Islamic Rebirth Party, warns that the end result could be a clergy that spends its time serving Tajikistan’s political leaders.
Mehrangiz Tursunzoda is an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan.
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