madrasaThe president of mostly Muslim Tajikistan has urged parents to withdraw their children from religious schools abroad, an appeal reflecting fears of radical Islam gaining ground in the Central Asian nation. President Imomali Rakhmon, in televised remarks to textile factory workers in a town near the border with Afghanistan, said he was concerned Tajik children attending such schools could return home as “terrorists”. (Photo: Koran students in Pakistani madrasa in Peshawar, September 11, 2006/Ali Imam)

“All parents who have sent their children to be educated at religious schools abroad — I would like to ask and urge you to bring them back to their homeland, because most of these schools are not religious,” Rakhmon said on Tuesday.  “Your children will become extremists, terrorists, and will turn into enemies and traitors of the Tajik nation.”

Most Tajiks cannot afford it, but sending a child to study in a nation such as Saudi Arabia is a source of prestige, and returning students are often granted a great deal of respect. Analysts say deepening economic hardship and social problems are pushing Tajiks toward radical Islam, threatening stability in the otherwise secular nation of seven million.

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