The Taliban impose their interpretation of Sharia law in Afghanistan


The Taliban have ordered judges in Afghanistan to fully enforce their interpretation of Islamic law, including public executions, amputations and floggings, a move experts fear could lead to a further deterioration of human rights in the impoverished country.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that Afghan Supreme Leader Ali Qadar, Commander of the Faithful, took the “obligatory” order after meeting with the judges to “investigate the cases of thieves, kidnappers and inspectors.”

Mujahid wrote in a tweet on Sunday, “Those cases that have met all the conditions of Sharia of limitation and punishment, you are obligated to issue restrictions and retribution, because this is the command of Sharia … and the obligation to act.”

Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles and one of the world’s leading officials in the field of Sharia, told CNN that there is a rich history of discussion about Sharia laws and different interpretations of their meanings.

He said, “On every point of law you will find 10 different opinions… Sharia is very open-minded.”

Al-Fadl told CNN that Islamic law in Islamic jurisprudence means “the search for the divine will.” Although, in Western and domestic discourse, it is common to use Sharia interchangeably with Islamic law, Sharia is a much broader and more comprehensive concept, according to a statement from Al-Fadl’s website.

The Taliban’s strict enforcement of the doctrine when the group was in power from 1996 to 2001 included violent punishments, such as public execution, stoning, flogging and amputation.

Al-Fadl said that within the 1,400-year-old tradition of Sharia law, these punishments are rarely carried out because the majority of Muslim jurists throughout history have not interpreted the law the way the Taliban currently interpret it. “The Taliban have a special approach to Sharia that no one can ignore,” Al-Fadl said. “Anyone who does not fit their definition can be killed.”

After seizing power last August, the Taliban tried to project a more moderate image to win international support, but in the months that followed, the movement stressed rights and freedoms.

Women in Afghanistan could no longer work in most sectors and needed a male guardian to travel long distances, while girls were barred from returning to secondary school.

Last week, women were banned from entering amusement parks in the capital, Kabul, after the Taliban’s morality ministry said women’s entry to public parks would be restricted.

During the group’s first period in power, the Taliban banned most forms of music as un-Islamic, and last August, in echoes of politics, Afghan folk singer Fuad Andrabi was dragged from his home and murdered.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, told CNN that the Taliban’s recent announcement on Sharia law was “disturbing.”

“Since they have assumed effective power, we expect them to keep their word by delivering on the existing human rights obligations that have been undertaken in Afghanistan,” Haq said. They did not fulfill their obligations. We will continue to pressure them on this. We oppose the death penalty in all its forms.”

The security situation in the country has also deteriorated since the group seized power last year, with increasing isolation and poverty in the country.

The United Nations says nearly half of the country’s population faces acute hunger. An estimated 43% of Afghanistan’s population lives on less than one meal a day, with 90% of Afghans surveyed stating that food is their primary need, according to a May report by the International Rescue Committee.

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