Taliban religious police jail beard-trimmers for 10 days

AFP, December 18, 1999

KABUL, Dec 18 (AFP) - The head of Afghanistan's religious police said Saturday he is jailing men who trim their beards for up to 10 days.

Mawlawi Mohammad Salim Haqani, caretaker Minister for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, was quoted by the official Heywad daily as saying offenders are kept in a detention centre at the downtown ministry.

"It is a supervisory centre which is in fact like a religious school where a teacher has been assigned to ask them about prayers, ablution, beliefs and other religious issues," he said.

"The rules prescribe 10 days in jail for trimming or shaving beard," said the head of the Taliban's most feared organ.

The detention period is reduced if the detainees pass a test, he said, without specifying what it was.

Teams of religious police in Japanese-made jeeps regularly patrol the streets of this once liberal city.

The Taliban, which rose from Afghan and Pakistani Koranic schools five years ago, control Kabul and most of the country, and have imposed a strict interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law.

Women have been barred from work and education outside home, and ordered to cover themselves fully in public.

Men have been told to shun western dress and hairstyles. Photography of living objects, including video, music, and cinema, is strictly forbidden.

Responding to reports that male doctors have been jailed and beaten after female patients showed them their faces, Haqani said every Muslim woman had to wear the Hejab (veil) when facing strangers, including doctors.

The Taliban's supreme leader, Mulla Mohammad Omar, has issued a decree asking women not to go to male doctors unless absolutely necessary, in which case they have to be accompanied by their male relatives, he said.

"During inspection, both the female patient and the doctor have to observe Islamic Hejab. The doctor has to only touch that part of the patient's body which has the problem and not to touch her other parts" he said, quoting the decree.

Male hospital doctors and nurses are forbidden from entering female wards unless they have to, and female doctors should wear old clothes and shun make-up and talking with male staff, he said.

"However, in case of need they can meet while observing the Hejab. Female doctors and nurses cannot enter the rooms of male patients."

He warned that no other authority could stop his teams from checking hospitals and private clinics.

Haqani's men, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and leather whips, force local shopkeepers to attend five-time daily prayers in mosque congregations. Those who do not have their shops sealed off for five days.

The minister said Islamic scholars have said people who shirk prayers should be beaten until they start to bleed.

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