Afghanistan Reviving Virtues Ministry: Democracy? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Six Degrees of Speculation

Freedom on the march

Despite the Bush administration mantra that Democracy is on the march, there is little evidence that anything resembling American democracy is taking hold in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, in an indication that Afghanistan may be slipping back towards the extreme Islamic standards that existed under the Taliban, the country is reestablishing the Vice and Virtues Ministry. Read the full article here.

Afghanistan's powerful religious and tribal leaders have been pressing U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai to reinstate the ministry, which many considered the most powerful in the ousted Taliban government. It employed 32,000 people to enforce the Islamic zealots' bans on girls' schools, on television, on card-playing and other gambling, even on kite-flying and women's public baths.

Karim Rahimi, Karzai's spokesman, said Afghans should not be worried.

"The people were scared of the Vice and Virtues Ministry under the Taliban, but this new ministry won't be like the Taliban's," Rahimi said. "It will take into consideration moral and religious activities to help improve Afghan society."

Misdemeanors deemed fit for punishment of women included wearing socks that were not sufficiently opaque, showing wrists, hands, or ankles, and not being accompanied by a close male relative.

The Taliban's Virtue and Vice squads beat men for trimming their beards or humiliated people found with video recorders by parading them around their neighborhoods with faces blackened with charcoal or oil and with cassette tape wrapped around their head and neck. They forced shopkeepers to close during prayer time.

During the rule of the Taliban, sports fields were converted into execution arenas where those who violated the accepted Islamic laws were routinely put to death in front of civilian audiences. NPR ran a Morning Edition story on the potential return of the much feared ministry. You can listen to the report here.

Clearly the notion that democracy can be exported such that long held beliefs and traditions are readily cast aside is one of the many miscalculations of the Bush administration. In reality, our actions in the region may simply be hardening the resolve of those opposed to any further Western influence.

Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2006 | 6:56 PM
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