DUSHANBE -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon is urging people in the predominantly Muslim country not to wear beards or hijabs.
Speaking on July 11, Rahmon praised 10-year-old legislation governing rituals and traditions in the Central Asian state he has ruled since 1992.
Rahmon said that hijabs and black dresses for women are not in line with Tajikistan's traditions, and that beards are not necessarily a reflection of religiosity.
He called on Tajiks to "love God with their hearts" and not seek to show their "righteousness" through external attributes.
Rahmon said citizens should preserve what he called the "true culture of Tajiks" and resist "alien cultures and traditions" he said were being propagated on the Internet.
Rahmon's government has repeatedly called for the strengthening of secular principles in the former Soviet republic of 8.5 million.
Tajikistan has banned head scarves for schoolgirls, barred minors from mosques, and forced thousands of students to return home from Islamic schools abroad in recent months amid reports that many Tajiks have joined militants in Iraq and Syria.