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Tajikistan Still Debating the Good and Evil of Halloween

Tajik government officials fail to see the fun side of halloween. Wikipedia image.

Tajik government officials fail to see the fun side of Halloween. Wikipedia image.

Halloween – a holiday very few people in Tajikistan even celebrate – is still under siege in the Central Asian state over two years after public discussions about a potential ban first stirred. 

Celebrating the holiday is not technically illegal in the republic, but on October 25 Tajik policemen entered one of Dushanbe's more famous nightclubs during the course of a fancy dress event and ordered the club's management to switch the music off, according to RFE/RL's Tajik service. They subsequently held a would-be-witch and a faux vampire for questioning before releasing the pair.

Halloween, argue state officials and more traditionally minded bloggers, is a “Western” holiday and a corrosive influence on Tajik society. The Tajik blogosphere, however, is split between those that approve of the de facto ban and those that find it absurd. 

The idea of a moral moratorium on the holiday dates back at least as far as 2012. On the eve of Halloween that year, Global Voices quoted one blogger Bachai Sao:

We should teach the younger generation that Halloween is alien to Tajiks and all Muslims. Proud Tajik boys and girls who love their nation should never celebrate alien holidays.

In 2013, when Halloween-related detentions first occurred Global Voices cited a Twitter user's opposition to attempts to ban the holiday. 

Do we live in an Islamic republic or what? Has our police been transformed into a morality police?

Over on Blogiston.tj, an emerging blogging platform in the republic, the debate rumbles on this year.

On October 27 blogger Sitora Yusupova wrote:

Чашни холлуин моликияти аврупо мебошад. (ба мо расм шудааст, ки ба чуз илм ва хунар дигар амалхоро таклид созем ва худро чун заррае ба аврупоихо монанд бисозем, кани чавони англисе, ки икдом гирифта бошад то наврузро чашн бигирад?)

Halloween is a European holiday, and it becomes more common for us to imitate Western values. Are there any foreigners who want to celebrate our Navruz? Halloween spoils the psychology of children; children feel frightened when they see Jack-o-lanterns.

Yusupova adds that Halloween contradicts not only Islam but also Orthodox Christianity: 

Рухониёни мо низ таъкид доранд, ки чашнгирии ин маросим ба мардуми мусалмон чоиз нест. Сабаби чоиз набудани чашнгирии маросими мазкурро намояндагони кумитаи дин ба якчанд критерияи чшнгирии иди зикргардида диданд, ки бо идеологияи исломи муковимати сахт дорад. Ва илова бар ин намояндагони равияи “Православи” низ зидд мебошанд. Пас аз навиштани ин мавод маро харки хонед хамонам!

Mullahs [religious leaders] say that celebrations of this holiday are not relevant to Muslim people as it does not fit the criteria of the Committee of Religion of Tajikistan. It contradicts Islamic teaching. In addition, followers of Orthodoxy are also against this holiday. After writing this post, you can call me whatever you want!

Rustam Gulov, who hosts Blogiston.tj took the middle ground in a comment under Yusupova's article:

Ман, албатта, тарафдори ҷаҳонишавиям (глобализатсия), аммо дар баробари ин хеле хурсанд мешавад, вақте фаҳмам, ки ҷавононе ҳастанд, ки урфу одат, дину фарҳанги худро пос медоранд ва ҳимоя менамоянд. Ин тақлидкорӣ ба чунин ҷашнвораҳои даҳшатангез тақлидкории кӯр-кӯрона аст. Бигузор ба илмомӯзию фаъолнокии ҷамъиятии ғарбиён тақлид кунанд, на ин ки тарзи носолими ҳаёти онҳо.

Despite the fact that I support globalization, I am really glad that there are young people [like Yusupova] who want to preserve their culture.

But a blogger on the same platform, Ovora, struck out against public pressure not to celebrate Halloween.

ну да, праздник не наш, конечно. но какой вообще праздник можно назвать нашим? 25 лет назад у нас не было ни дня независимости, ни дня конституции, ни дня национального языка. 100 лет назад у нас не было нового года, 23 февраля, 8 марта и дней рождения. а было ведь время, еще раньше, когда и исламских праздников у нас не было. так что все праздники, которые мы сегодня празднуем, были не наши – а потом стали нашими. это я о том, что делить праздники на наши и не наши наверно не совсем правильно.

Yes, Halloween is not our holiday, but what are our holidays in reality? Twenty-five years ago, we didn't have Independence Day, Day of the Constitution, Day of National Language. A hundred years ago, we didn't have New Year, February 23, March 8 and birthdays. There was even a time when we didn't have Islamic holidays. So, all holidays are universal, and it is not correct to divide holidays into “ours” and “not-ours.”

Ovora concludes that while Tajikistan is a secular state, it is the right of every human to celebrate or not celebrate a holiday.

наша жизнь состоит не только из пятикратных молитв и походов в мечеть, ибо таджикистан – не исламское государство. наши граждане хотят еще и веселиться, приятно проводить время. а празднование хэллоуина это как раз приятноe времяпровождение для людей, соскучившихся по костюмированным тематическим мероприятиям. люди ведь не становятся ближе к аллаху только от того, что они празднуют или не празднуют хэллоуин.

Our life is not only going to the mosque and praying five times a day – Tajikistan is not an Islamic state. Our people want to have fun and Halloween is just that – a fun way to spend time with other people who miss fancy-dress parties and theme events. People do not get closer to Allah because they do or do not celebrate Halloween.

N.B. Farrukh Umari provided translations from Tajik.

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