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Tajik Imams Call For Islamic Party's Closure At Friday Prayers

DUSHANBE -- Imams at several mosques across Tajikistan have urged Muslims to support the closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party, calling for a referendum to dissolve the only officially registered Islamic party in former Soviet Central Asia.

A letter distributed to imams before Friday prayers on March 27 said that dissolving the party would help Tajikistan "avoid the fate of other nations where Islamic extremists are disrupting peace and order."

The letter is believed to have been circulated by a state-backed Islamic center that often sends imams recommended texts for sermons.

It sharply increased the pressure from the government and mainstream Muslim authorities on the Islamic Renaissance Party, which was banished from parliament in a March 1 election marred by fraud allegations.

At the central mosque in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's Deputy Mufti Domullo Saidakbar called on believers to dissolve the party through a referendum.

Saidakbar said that Tajiks are Muslims historically and culturally, not through membership in political groups.