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Taliban edict
By Zafarul-Islam Khan

Within a short period we are getting another jolt from Afghanistan. This time the news emanating out of Kabul says that the ruling Taliban militia plans to force the country's non-Muslims to sport some kind of label to distinguish themselves from other citizens. The excuse offered is that this is at the request of the non-Muslims themselves and that it will save them from harassment at the hands of the so-called religious police which enforces morals on the streets and ensures compliance to Taliban’s tribal dress code. We do not know to what extent this news is correct as Taliban have no news delivery system and do not believe in public relations either, and at present all the news emanates from forces inimical to them, but the fact remains that this news is not without substance and the religious police harassment is common to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Such an action is unthinkable in these enlightened times when human rights and basic liberties have become part of every country's constitution and state policy and it is universally unacceptable to distinguish any citizen on the basis of creed, colour or race.

The most alarming part of this new controversy in our opinion is that it is being justified in the name of Islam. This practice might have been in vogue for very short periods somewhere in the Middle East in the Middle Ages and may be found in some obscure Fiqhi work, but there is absolutely no sanction for it in the two basic sources of Islamic law: Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah. There is no evidence whatsoever that such a code was ever enforced by the Prophet or the rightly-guided caliphs who succeeded him. On the contrary Jews of Madinah were treated as an equal ‘Ummah’ with Muslims in the Constitution of Madinah which is the first written constitution in the world.

The problem with the Taliban and their ilk is that their source of inspiration is not the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah but, in addition to local and tribal traditions, some archaic books of Fiqh (jurisprudence) which need serious reconsideration today because Ijtihad, interpretation by learned scholars, has virtually stopped in the wake of the Mongol invasion of Baghdad in the thirteenth century AD. By opening the gates of Ijtihad alone we can overcome such eccentric and obscurantist interpretations which are not acceptable to the truly learned scholars of Islam anywhere in the world.

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