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Fashion police: Tajikistan sets up clothing commission

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The Tajik government wants to help Tajikistan’s population navigate the complex world of fashion by establishing a commission to promote clothing it deems appropriate. In particular, the commission will look to work against “alien” influences that are corrupting Tajiks’ sense of style.

If you’ve ever found it hard to reconcile contemporary fashion, practicalities and tradition, Tajik Culture Minister Shamsuddin Omurbekzoda gets it: the new commission will help design clothes for both men and women “taking into consideration Tajik traditions” and “modern” life, he says. This measure will help people to “avoid wearing foreign clothes”.

Just what are these foreign clothes? You might imagine mini-skirts and crop-tops, but Mr Omurbekzoda seems to be taking particular aim at Islamic dress, dubbing women in black religious dress as “imitating alien fashion”.

Men don’t escape the style advice, with Mr Omurbekzoda urging Tajik men to don “European clothes”, noting that he can’t imagine “us wearing Arab clothes”.

The formation of a clothing commission is indicative of a larger crackdown on religious activity in Tajikistan, particularly Islam, in the face of the population’s increasing religiosity since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the name of combatting extremism, the government has prohibited the hijab in government offices and schools, while boys under 18 have been banned from praying in mosques.

What exactly does “traditional” clothing mean, if not referencing Islamic culture? Only time will tell how the Tajik government will seamlessly synthesise Tajik “traditions” and modern life.

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