Tajikistan's authoritarian leader has approved a law barring minors from praying in mosques as his secular government seeks to minimize the rising influence of Islam in the Central Asian nation.
President Emomali Rakhmon signed the bill Wednesday despite vocal resistance from rights activists and the opposition Islamic Revival Party.
The law also requires people under the age of 18 to study in secular schools thus barring thousands of students from attending mosque schools seen by authorities as a breeding ground of Islamism.
The impoverished and predominantly Sunni Muslim nation shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan.
The country was ravaged in the 1990s by a civil war between government forces and a loose alliance of Islamists and democrats.