Taliban: Women Lose Value if Men See Their Faces

Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif says women who spurn hijabs risk 'falling into sin'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 18, 2023 12:14 PM CDT
Taliban Rep: Women Who Spurn Hijab Lose Value
Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, the spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue, speaks during an interview in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Siddiqullah Alizai)

Women lose value if men can see their uncovered faces in public, a spokesman for a key ministry of Afghanistan's Taliban government said Thursday, adding that religious scholars in the country agree that a woman must keep her face covered when outside the home. The Taliban, who took over the country in August 2021, have cited the failure of women to observe the proper way to wear the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, as a reason for barring them from most public spaces, including parks, jobs, and universities. Molvi Mohammad Sadiq Akif, the spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue, said in an interview with the AP that if women's faces are visible in public, there's a possibility of fitna, or "falling into sin."

"It is very bad to see women [without the hijab] in some areas [big cities], and our scholars also agree that women's faces should be hidden," Akif said. "It's not that her face will be harmed or damaged. A woman has her own value, and that value decreases by men looking at her. Allah gives respect to females in hijab and there is value in this." The Taliban's restrictions on girls and women have caused global outrage, including from some Muslim-majority countries. On Wednesday, UN special envoy Gordon Brown said the International Criminal Court should prosecute Taliban leaders for crimes against humanity for denying education and employment to Afghan girls and women. Akif didn't answer questions about the bans, including whether any of them could be lifted if there were to be universal adherence to hijab rules.

Akif said people supported the ministry's measures. "People wanted to implement Shariah [Islamic law] here," he said. "Now we're carrying out the implementation of Shariah." He said that under the current administration, men no longer harass or stare at women like they used to. But Tim Winter, a Cambridge University Islamic studies expert, said there was no scriptural mandate in Islam for face coverings and that the Taliban would struggle to find anything in Islamic scripture that backed their interpretation of hijab rules. "Their name implies they are not senior religious experts," he says. "The word 'Taliban' means 'students.'" He said the Taliban operate on the basis of textbooks used in village religious schools, and that Muslim scholars who've been to Afghanistan during both periods of Taliban rule have been underwhelmed by their religious knowledge.

(More Taliban stories.)

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