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News Code: 949


Tajik Muslim clerics to be paid salaries by state

Tajikistan's Muslim clerics are to wear uniforms and be paid salaries by the state, the head of the country's top Muslim authority said on Wednesday.

"As of February 1, the imam khatibs [chief clerics of mosques] will receive their first official salaries. According to preliminary estimates, the head of a central mosque will receive 2,000 somoni ($419), a sarkhatib [the chief cleric of a Friday mosque] 1,500 somoni ($314), and the imam khatib of a five-prayer mosque 800 somoni ($168)," the head of the Ulama Council, Saidmukarram Abdukodirzoda, told reporters.

There was 4.77 somoni to the dollar at Wednesday's official exchange rate. The country's average monthly wage is the equivalent of $157 and minimum wage $52.

News that the state would pay salaries to the Muslim clergy first came in September. It was announced by President Emomali Rahmon two months before a presidential election that gave him one more term of office. The Muslim clergy enthusiastically supported his re-election bid.

"There will be the same style outfit for the entire clergy - it will be sky-blue in color with national symbols. Imam khatibs will start wearing the new clothes next week," Abdukodirzoda said.

According to official statistics, 96.6% of Tajikistan's population of 8 million are followers of Hanafism, a movement in Sunni Islam, another 2.8% - 220,600 people - follow Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam. Only 0.6% of the population - 48,000 people - represent other religions such as Christianity or are atheists.
Source: ABNA