KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — According to a statement from a spokesperson of a significant ministry within Afghanistan’s Taliban administration on Thursday, the visibility of women’s uncovered faces in public would lead to a decrease in their perceived worth. The spokesperson also emphasized that religious scholars in the nation are in agreement that it is obligatory for women to veil their faces when they are outside their residences.
Following their assumption of power in August 2021, the Taliban have justified their restriction of women from participating in various public domains such as parks, workplaces, and universities by pointing out instances where women did not adhere to the prescribed manner of wearing the hijab, the Islamic headscarf.
Taliban official says women lose value if their faces are visible to men in public
Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, serving as the official representative for the Ministry of Vice and Virtue within the Taliban administration, conveyed in an exclusive conversation with The Associated Press on Thursday that allowing women’s faces to be seen openly in public could potentially lead to fitna, indicating a risk of moral decline.
“It is highly inappropriate to witness women (not wearing the hijab) in certain regions, particularly urban centers, and our scholars are in consensus regarding the necessity of concealing women’s faces,” remarked Akif. He continued, “It’s not a matter of physical harm to her face. A woman possesses inherent value, and that value diminishes when her visage is exposed to men’s gazes. Allah bestows honor upon females who wear the hijab, and therein lies their significance.”
Contrarily, Tim Winter, known as the Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity, countered that there exists no explicit scriptural decree in Islam mandating face coverings. He asserted that the Taliban would encounter difficulty in pinpointing Islamic scriptures that validate their particular interpretation of hijab regulations.
“Their appellation suggests that they aren’t authoritative religious scholars,” he conveyed to AP. “The term Taliban translates to ‘students’.”
Winter explained that the Taliban’s modus operandi is rooted in the educational materials used in rural madrassas, religious schools, and noted that Muslim scholars who have visited Afghanistan during both periods of Taliban rule have been unimpressed by their depth of religious erudition. “Their isolation from the broader Muslim community has been quite palpable.”
The limitations imposed by the Taliban on girls and women have sparked widespread international condemnation, even from certain Muslim-majority nations.
Just recently, on Wednesday, Gordon Brown, the U.N. special envoy, advocated for the International Criminal Court to take action against Taliban leaders. He urged them to be prosecuted for committing crimes against humanity due to their denial of educational and occupational opportunities for Afghan girls and women.
Akif’s Perspective on Prohibitions and Universal Hijab Compliance
Akif, the primary spokesperson for the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, refrained from addressing inquiries about the prohibitions, including the possibility of any relaxation should universal compliance with hijab regulations occur. He indicated that there were other departments tasked with addressing these matters.
The Ministry’s Approach to Handling Queries and Bans
Regarding the ministry’s endeavors, Akif affirmed that no hindrances obstructed their progress and that the public was supportive of their initiatives.
“People were eager for Sharia (Islamic law) to be implemented here. Now, we’re executing the implementation of Sharia,” he declared. All the directives they issued, he emphasized, were rooted in established Islamic rulings; the Taliban had made no alterations to them. “The precepts of Sharia were established 1,400 years ago and persist to this day.”
He noted that, under the current governance, instances of men harassing or staring at women, as had been prevalent during the previous regime, have significantly reduced.
Cracking Down on Social Vices: Taliban’s Stance on Alcohol and Bacha Bazi
The Taliban’s government also asserts that they’ve eradicated the “vices” of alcohol consumption and bacha bazi, a reprehensible practice involving the exploitation of boys by affluent or influential men for amusement, notably involving dancing and inappropriate activities.
Situated in a fortified compound near Kabul’s Darul Aman Palace, the ministry bars women from entering its premises, several guards on duty informed the AP. Nonetheless, a female-only security screening hut does exist.
Concrete barricades showcase slogans that extol the ministry’s mission. One reads: “Fostering virtue and preventing vice are effective mechanisms for maintaining societal order.” Another states: “Championing virtue and interdicting vice shield society from catastrophe.”
Akif disclosed that the ministry relies on a network of officials and informants to assess individuals’ adherence to regulations. “Our ombudsmen traverse markets, public spaces, universities, schools, madrassas, and mosques,” he outlined. “They visit these locations, observe people, engage in conversations, and offer guidance. We oversee them, and individuals actively collaborate by providing us with information.”
Asked about women’s access to parks, a venue from which they are restricted, Akif suggested that such visits could be possible under certain circumstances. “A woman can visit the park, but only in the absence of men. If men are present, Sharia does not permit it. We’re not implying that women can’t participate in sports, visit parks, or engage in physical activities. However, not in the manner some women desire, which entails being scantily clad and in the company of men