Dushanbe, February 10, Interfax - Chief mufti of Tajikistan Saidmukarram Abdulkodirzoda said during a Friday sermon in Tajikistan's main mosque that he condemned homosexuality and sexual minorities, having stated that "a nation, who committed such a sin," had been punished severely for it.
"I am ashamed that this topic is to be discussed in the mosque. Unfortunately, I have heard about the homosexual orientation of educated and cultural people, who refused relationships with their wives and women and who commit the sin of sodomy," independent Tajik agencies quoted Abdulkodirzoda as saying.
"I warn you against such sinful behavior. Each nation, who committed such sins, was punished severely," the mufti said.
Abdulkodirzoda said that he condemned Western countries for legalizing same-sex marriages and that he categorically dismissed the proposals of human rights activists offering to pass amendments protecting the rights of sexual minorities.
The liability for sodomy was dropped from the Tajik Criminal Code in 1998. However, Tajik sexual minorities hide their orientation fearing for their safety. Human rights activists report regularly assault cases there.
The clergy is taking a dangerous step, which can be perceived by society with the growing role of Islam as an appeal for violence regarding sexual minorities, in Tajik society burdened with everyday life disorder, epidemic unemployment and poverty, Tajik scientist, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences Zulaiho Usmonova said.
"Such speeches of religious leaders upset me a lot not just due to their human-hating and openly homophobic character. I do not understand the irresponsibility of our religious figures - hundreds and thousands men, catching their every words during the Friday sermon, can quite take such a sermon as an appeal for 'action' and an appeal to clean up from 'sinful homosexuals,' they can organize themselves quickly and to go into streets to really smash all those they consider to be gay, lesbian and different, not quite 'convenient and disgusting people' to most Tajik population," Usmonova told Interfax.
According to the information of the World Bank, about 50% Tajik people live below poverty, in other words on less than $2 a day. Tajikistan's per capita GDP exceeded the $1,000 level just in 2013, which is still the lowest figure in the post-Soviet region. Over 1.2 million Tajik citizens, or a half of the employable population work mostly in Russia.
"Now people, who hardly live and survive as it is, can easily direct their aggression, anger and discontent due to financial issues towards sexual minorities and generally towards anyone they will consider to be one. To issue a fatwah [law on punishment issued by Muslim religious leaders] on homosexuality - the document influencing Muslims - is insensible, short-sighted and very dangerous amid the current situation and the state of society," Usmonova said.
On January 2, 2012, Parviz Davlatbelov, age 24, was killed in the Tajik capital while wearing a Santa Clause costume. Abdulkodirzoda said in an interview with the Persian service of a British radio station ahead of the New Year, on December 30, that "celebrating the Gregorian New Year, which has religious routes, contradicts the Islamic laws as well as the traditions of the Tajik citizens. We have many good holidays of our own."
Many social network users in Tajikistan are certain that namely this careless statement by the chief mufti had become the indirect reason for the murder. Abdulkodirzoda said on January 4 that his words were understood wrongly and that he just wanted to say that Koran had no instructions regarding the New Year celebration.