DUSHANBE, February 20, 2012, Asia-Plus – Radio Liberty reports that the deputy chairman of Tajikistan''s State Committee for Religious Affairs said on February 16 that the country has more mosques than schools.

Mavlon Mukhtorov said official figures show there are 3,425 regular mosques, 344 cathedral mosques, and 40 central cathedral mosques.

Mukhtorov reportedly said on Thursday his ministry issued permits for 45 new mosques to be built in different parts of the country.

Tajikistan''s Education Ministry reports there are 3,793 schools, most of them overcrowded, and in many cases one classroom has up to 40 students.

Hikmatullo Saifullozoda of the Islamic Revival Party (IRP) said there was no need for concern at these figures.

“People need both schools and mosques,” Saifullozoda said, adding that decisions on building new schools were made by the government whereas mosques were built “with donations from common people.”

Tajik authorities have been alarmed at the proliferation of extremist Islamic groups and have sought since 2010 to close illegal or underground mosques.

That followed a suicide bombing on a police station in Khujand and an attack on Tajik soldiers in September 2010, which Tajik authorities blamed on Islamic extremists.

The Tajik government also ordered all its citizens studying Islam at universities abroad to return to Tajikistan and later passed a law making parents responsible for the children''s actions.