The People of Tajikistan, Religion
Ismailis, Pamirs, Tajiks, Islamic heritage, Shia Muslims
The predominant religion in Tajikistan is Islam. Most Tajiks and Uzbeks, amounting to about 80 percent of the population, are Sunni Muslims. About 5 percent of the population are Shia Muslims. Most of the country’s Shias, notably the peoples of the Pamirs in the Gorno-Badakhshan region, are Ismailis.
Arab conquerors introduced Islam to the region of present-day Tajikistan, along with other parts of southern Central Asia, in the 8th century ad. The peoples of the Pamirs were introduced to the Ismaili religion, a Shia Muslim sect, in the 11th century. During the Soviet period, the officially atheistic Communist regime severely restricted religious practice. Then in the mid-1980s when the Soviet government eased many of its restrictions on religion, a resurgence in Islam began in Tajikistan. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 allowed even more religious freedom, and more Tajiks turned to their Islamic heritage. However, the government of Tajikistan has attempted to suppress Islamic groups, which it perceives as a threat to its hold on power.
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