Tajik clerics recommend dam-builders skip Ramadan


Muslim clerics in ex-Soviet Tajikistan have advised workers building what will become the world's tallest hydroelectric dam not to observe Ramadan, echoing comments from the country's secular authoritarian ruler.

A spokesman for the religious affairs committee said on Tuesday that the fatwa (directive) "was issued primarily for the safety of workers engaged in construction" of the Rogun dam.

"They work at a great altitude in difficult conditions, as well as underground," said the spokesman.

The Rogun dam is a signature project of President Emomali Rakhmon and its Italian contractor is in a race against time to get the first unit online by November.

Rogun, which at 335 metres will become the world's tallest dam, is a $4 billion project that Rakhmon views as vital to lifting Tajikistan out of poverty.

Earlier this month Rakhmon said that "fasting without thinking about tomorrow" is "not the quality of a true Muslim".

Ramadan, one of Islam's most revered holidays in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk, began last week and ends on 14 June.

Authorities in the Central Asian nation have struggled to keep up with a religious revival following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, clamping down on headscarves and long beards in recent times.

Rakhmon, a former collective farm chairman, also exhorted agricultural workers not to spare energy needed for sowing the fields in the coming weeks during his speech. (AFP)

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