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Taliban to mark Afghan Hindus

While leaders say action protects Hindus, others calls it blatant discrimination

May 22, 2001
Web posted at: 5:18 PM EDT (2118 GMT)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia announced plans on Tuesday to force Hindus to wear identity labels, sparking a backlash in India and elsewhere.

A Taliban spokesman said the order was issued to safeguard the rights of Hindus so that they are not accosted by the religious police who ensure that Afghans adhere to Muslim rules.

The edict also requires Hindu women to wear veils, as Muslim women do.

Afghanistan's Buddhist heritage

Afghanistan under the Taliban

The move is the latest in a series of Taliban measures to crack down, or to segregate, un-Islamic and idolatrous segments of its society.

"Religious minorities living in an Islamic state must be identified," said the Taliban's religious police minister Mohammed Wali.

Not surprisingly, the outcry against the plan was especially strong in India, a predominantly Hindu nation southwest of Afghanistan.

"We absolutely deplore such orders which patently discriminate against minorities," Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed Indian foreign ministry official as saying. "It is further evidence of the backward and unacceptable ideological underpinning of the Taliban."

Strict version of Islam

Afghanistan's location on well-trod trading routes used for centuries by those traveling between Europe and the Far East contributed to its unique cultural heritage. The country's history became marked by a mixture of Persian, Greek, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic influences.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan's biggest city, Kabul, in 1996 and currently control over 90 percent of the country. But few nations recognize the leadership as legitimate.

The nation remains embroiled in a two-decade long civil war and the U.N. World Food Program estimates nearly 4 million of its people are on the brink of starvation.

The Taliban enforces a strict version of Islam. Women are barred from most jobs and education, students wear turbans, and men must have beards and pray five times a day. All light entertainment, including television and music, are outlawed.

Most of the Islamic world, including pro-Taliban Pakistan, differ with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam and say that it is tarnishing Islam's image.

But the Taliban has generally refused to succumb to outside pressures. Despite international protest, the Taliban recently destroyed two giant ancient stone statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in central Bamiyan.

Munawaar Hasan, general secretary of a major Islamic political party called Jamaat-e-Islami, or Islamic Party, defended the latest move and said it should be applauded internationally.

"The Taliban should win praise for this step," he said. "Providing protection to religious minorities is a must in any Islamic country and this step seems in line with this concept."

Hindus wary of edict

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kandahar, the seat of Taliban government, said that Mullah Omar, supreme leader of the Taliban government, had yet to approve the order, and it was unclear if it was in effect.

Journalist Kamal Hyder told CNN that Hindus he had spoken with had heard radio reports about the edict but had not received information from the Ministry of Virtue and Wisdom.

"Most of these Hindus told us that they do not see discrimination in their day-to-day life," Hyder said. "They were, of course, apprehensive about any edict regarding a dress code."

Hyder said most female Hindus in Kandahar already veil themselves "in order to blend in."

"These people have been here for hundreds of years, and most of them were not having any difficulties here," Hyder said.

Anar, an Afghan Hindu in Kabul who uses just one name, told the Associated Press he does not want to wear a label identifying him as Hindu.

"It will make us vulnerable and degrade our position in society," he said.



regret strongly



involved in conflicts or difficulties



proclamation (in this case, a religious/political one) having the force of law



accordant with law; lawful or rightful



give in or lose out to superior strength or force



viewing the future with anxiety or alarm



lower to an inferior or less effective level



approached and treated in an aggressive manner



to hold fast or stick by, as if by gluing, suction, etc.; to give support or maintain loyalty



to separate, isolate or single out because of racial, religious, political or other differences



of or relating to the worship of a physical object as a god; strong attachment or devotion to something

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Federation of American Scientists: The Taliban
United Nations
India Prime Minister's Office

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