Officials in Tajikistan have decided to begin the new school year this Friday, even if Friday is one of the holiest days for the country’s Muslims.
The Education Ministry confirmed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Monday that classes will be held in schools and universities across Tajikistan on September 1. This is the same day as the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of the Sacrifice,” which takes place over several days.
Eid al-Adha is one of two major religious observances named as public holidays in Tajikistan’s 1994 constitution. The other is Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The country also observes September 1 as the Day of Knowledge, which marks the beginning of the school year. Tajik officials said they decided to start the new school year on this date. But they also chose to give students a public holiday on Saturday, September 2, to celebrate Eid al-Adha.
Students in Tajikistan attend school six days a week, including Saturday.
“Eid al-Adha is celebrated for three days, so our students will still have an opportunity to celebrate it on Saturday and Sunday,” the ministry spokesman said.
The decision was supported by imams across Tajikistan, where about nine out of 10 people are Muslim. The religious leaders urged parents to honor the government’s decision and send their children to school on September 1.
Imams in Tajikistan largely support the country’s secular system of government. In recent years, Tajik leaders took steps to tighten control over some Islamic customs as officials warned of the possibility of growing extremism.
The hijab head covering and other forms of Islamic clothing are not permitted in Tajik schools and government offices. Children are mostly barred from praying in mosques. Other Central Asian states that declared independence from the Soviet Union have made their own decisions on how to handle Eid al-Adha and the start of school.
Kyrgyzstan will mark both the religious festival and the first day of school on September 1, but has canceled classes. Instead, schools will hold gatherings to mark Education Day.
Kazakhstan moved the first day of school to September 2 to enable Eid al-Adha celebrations.
Uzbekistan did not need to make changes because September 1 is already a public holiday held to mark Independence Day.
Turkmenistan’s state media reported that Eid al-Adha would be celebrated with a three-day public holiday starting on September 2. The country announced an additional “day off” September 5, to make up for the Sunday that happens during the Eid al-Adha festival.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Farangis Najibullah wrote this story for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
imam – n. Muslim religious leader
secular – n. not related to religious or spiritual matters
hijab – n. head covering worn in public by some Muslim women