Taliban start giving forced hair-cuts

By Tim Johnston

KABUL, Nov 4, 1998 (Reuters) - The Taliban have started forcibly cutting hair in Kabul in their drive to turn Afghanistan into the world's purest Islamic state.

"We are cutting hair that hangs over the forehead because when you pray it gets in the way of your forehead touching the ground; the devil stands between you and God,'' Maulawi Abdul Rashid Darkasti of the Taliban's religious police told reporters.

Darkasti, armed with a pair of scissors, stood at a roundabout on Tuesday amid piles of severed forelocks.

He stopped buses and cyclists, removing people's hats to check if anyone was hiding offensive amounts of hair.

``We have cut the hair of 56 people already today,'' Darkasti said, his voice ringing with enthusiasm.

He is the head of the religious police -- formally known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice -- in southwestern Kabul.

Hirsuteness is a major issue in the Taliban's crusade to impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Civil servants have lost their jobs after being judged guilty of trimming their beards.

An official decree bans ``English and American haircuts,'' although the definition of what constitutes an English or American haircut remains fuzzy.

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