Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Return of Afghanistan's Religious Police?

So, while Canadian soldiers die in Afghanistan in the name of providing freedom, President Hamid Karzai's cabinet has approved a proposal to reintroduce a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the body which the Taliban used to enforce its extreme religious doctrine.

The proposal, which came to the cabinet from the country's Ulema council of clerics, will now go before the Afghan parliament when it reconvenes at the end of the month. While government leaders murmur comforting words that this new body will not resort to the draconian measures of its Taliban predecessor, the fact is that this body is entirely unnecessary; the crimes that the department will allegedly focus on, such as terrorism, drugs, alcohol and prostitution, are already covered under criminal law.

Undoubtedly, this is an attempt by Karzai's cabinet to mollify hard-line Islamist conservatives but such a short-sighted concession will undoubtedly have profoundly negative consequences for human rights for ordinary Afghans in the future. Once this department is created, it is hard to see how its power can ultimately be curtailed or withdrawn.

It just doesn't seem like this present Afghan government can stay on track in creating and maintaining a society where true freedom can exist. While I support Canadian troops being in Afghanistan, I am starting to wonder if ten years from now we may be wondering why we bothered.

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