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Tajikistan shaves 13,000 men's beards to end radicalism

Al Jazeera logo Al Jazeera 1/21/2016

Tajikistan shaves 13,000 men's beards to end radicalism: Police says more than 160 shops selling headscarves are also closed as part of a fight against "foreign" influences. © Provided by Al Jazeera Police says more than 160 shops selling headscarves are also closed as part of a fight against "foreign" influences. Police in Tajikistan have shaved nearly 13,000 men's beards and closed more than 160 shops selling traditional Muslim clothing last year as part of the country's fight against what it calls "foreign" influences.

Bahrom Sharifzoda, the head of the south-west Khathlon region's police, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the law enforcement services convinced more than 1,700 women and girls to stop wearing headscarves in the Muslim-majority Central Asian country.

The move is seen as an effort to battle radicalism. Tajikistan's secular leadership has long sought to prevent a spillover of radical traditions from neighbouring Afghanistan. 

According to unofficial estimates, there are more than 2,000 Tajiks fighting in Syria.

Last week, the country's parliament voted to ban Arabic-sounding "foreign" names as well as marriages between first cousins.

The legislation is expected to be approved by President Emomali Rahmon, who has taken steps to promote secularism and discourage beliefs and practices that he sees as foreign or a threat to stability of Tajikistan, Radio Liberty said.

A barber shaves a man's beard © REUTERS/Francois Lenoir A barber shaves a man's beard In September, Tajikistan's Supreme Court banned the country's only registered Islamic political party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, after months of violence that the government blamed on radical Islamism. 

Rahmon has ruled Tajikistan since 1994 and his current presidential term is expected to end in 2020.

In December, the parliament granted the president and his family life-long immunity from prosecution, giving Rahmon the title "Leader of the nation" and officially designating him "the founder of peace and national unity of Tajikistan".

The country of 7.1 million people has struggled with poverty and instability since independence from the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. It remains heavily dependent on Russia where majority of Tajik people go for work.

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