Afghan lawmakers push cultural bans of Taliban era
A draft proposal put forth last week would ban loud music, women and men mingling in public, billiards, and more.
– Shafi Samandari thought the days of the Taliban would never come back. "I love listening to music and going to wedding parties," the Kabul resident says. "After the Taliban was toppled, I was sure that we could start living normally again."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Taliban may not be returning anytime soon, but if some Afghan lawmakers have their way, Taliban-era laws will once again reign over the country. Last week, a group of members of parliament (MPs) put forth draft legislation that would ban T-shirts, loud music, women and men mingling in public, billiards, video games, playing with pigeons, and more – all regulations from the notorious Taliban era.
The move is the most recent attempt by religious conservatives to restrict "un-Islamic influences." Many observers say it's the latest sign of growing Talibanization in Afghanistan.
The draft law comes a week after members of parliament voted to ban wildly popular Indian soap operas from airing on Afghan channels.
The programs, emotional dramas featuring forbidden trysts, family intrigue, and Hindu imagery – drew the ire of conservatives and religious figures.
In January, Afghan journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh was put on death row for downloading an article from the Internet that questioned women's roles in Islam. Mr. Kambakhsh, who was convicted by an Islamic court, is scheduled to appeal in the coming weeks.
Late last year another prominent journalist, Ghaws Zalmai, was jailed for translating the Koran into the local Persian language.
While most analysts don't expect this most recent law to pass, there is a real threat that these moves will fuel religious conservatives and make the Taliban's ideas more acceptable, according to Haroun Mir cofounder and deputy director of the Afghan Center for Research and Policy Studies, based in Kabul.
"Even if the law doesn't pass, it will provide legitimacy for the Taliban by approving of Taliban-era laws," Mr. Mir says. This will bring together the fundamentalists, he adds, and put moderates on the defensive – creating a propitious climate for the proliferation of Taliban ideology.
"We have the same ideas as the Taliban," says parliamentarian Qazi Naseer Ahmad, who is not part of the group that proposed this latest law. "We want sharia [Islamic] law in our country. Women must ask permission from their husbands before they leave the home, and they must not wear clothes that are against Islam." Referring to the Indian television programs, Mr. Ahmad continues, "If children watch these serials, maybe they will forget the Islamic laws."
Urban, rural views differ
Many in Kabul express shock and disbelief that such laws are once more a part of public discourse. "I didn't believe it when I first heard it," Kabul-based journalist Hamid Asir says.
The streets of the capital city seem far removed from the austere versions of Islam that the conservative mullahs and MPs agitate for. In the bustling markets of central Kabul, crowds gather around vendors hawking imported DVDs, while Indian Bollywood music blares from nearby loudspeakers. Clutches of women stroll by storefronts to window-shop, while occasionally young men in T-shirts and jeans wander past. On warmer nights, elderly men and young children gather on rooftops, training pet pigeons to fly off and return to their owners.