Released May 22, 2001 (Updated May 25)
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Enver Masud

The Taliban and Afghanistan's Hindus

by Enver Masud

WASHINGTON, DC--The Taliban's religious police minister, Mohammed Wali, is reported to have told Associated Press, that Hindus living in Afghanistan may be required to wear an identity label on their clothing to distinguish them from Muslims, and that Hindu women would be required to to veil themselves.

Less conspicuous forms of identification, such as the carrying of "a thumb-sized yellow marker inside their pockets," (AFP) are under consideration.

The Taliban's proposal has given Western media yet another opportunity to attack the Taliban's record on human rights--as they did in the matter of the Bamiyan Buddhas. But Israel, which requires personal identification for Jews and non-Jews escapes similar scrutiny and condemnation.

And, it's a pity that this concern for human rights does not extend to the Bosnians, Chechens, Palestinians, and to millions more living in grinding poverty--including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As for the Hindus in Afghanistan, according to UN wire reports, journalist Kamal Hyder said Hindus he had spoken with "do not feel discriminated against." Of Afghanistan's population of 25 million people, non-Muslims comprise a small minority, with the largest group--Hindus--numbering about 500 (Constable, Washington Post). The badges are not felt to be necessary for Sikhs, because they wear distinctive turbans (BBC Online).

Taliban officials defended the proposal. "Senior Taliban information ministry official Mullah Abdulhanan Himat told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (Reuters, May 23) that the ruling aimed to protect Hindus and other minorities from the demands of religious police enforcing Muslim rules."

Donald Grayston, a religious studies professor at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, said the Taliban actions are rooted in humiliation and anger.

"Afghanistan has been destroyed," he said, referring to the years of devastating drought and war. "It's covered with mines. People can't farm. They were poor to begin with and now they're destitute. The young men who run the Taliban see the humiliation in their fathers and grandfathers, and are so angry. If there are Hindus in Afghanistan, they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time" (Chipman, Toronto National Post).

And, is it mere coincidence that this story broke just when the Mitchell report was drawing attention to Israel's human rights record in Palestine? And, why is there not a similar denunciation of the distinctive automobile license tags which give every Jew priveliges that are denied to Palestinians in the land of their birth?

Anti-Taliban forces are also suspect. "The ministry of external affairs goofed (Times of India), "when it condemned the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for allegedly forcing Hindus living in that country to wear yellow clothes, stop wearing turbans and start following the Shariat. ... the source of the original report appears to be Masood Khalili, the anti-Taliban Afghan ambassador in New Delhi who made similar allegations in February as well."

Unlike the automobile license tags which mark Palestinians for second class treatment today--as the yellow Star of David marked Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s--the Taliban's reported proposal, misguided perhaps, has drawn wide condemnation, while Israel's practices are shielded by Western media.

Copyright © 2001 The Wisdom Fund - Provided that it is not edited, and author name, organization, and web address ( are included, this article may be printed in newspapers and magazines, and displayed on the Internet.
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