Afghanistan Imposes Death Penalty

8 January, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan, (AP)  --  Afghanistan's Taliban rulers on Monday
imposed the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another
religion.

Any non-Muslim found trying to win converts will also be killed, Taliban
supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said on Taliban-run Radio Shariat.

Omar accused followers of other faiths - particularly Christians and Jews -
of trying to convert Muslims and seeking to demonize the harsh brand of
Islam practiced by the Taliban.

"The enemies of Muslims are trying to eliminate the pure Islamic religion
throughout the world," Omar said.

The Taliban enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law in Afghanistan.
Women are barred from working, and the Taliban have stopped all schooling
for girls beyond age 8.

Men are required to wear beards and pray in mosques without fail, while
women must wear head-to-toe coverings. Most forms of entertainment have
been outlawed, including television and music other than religious songs.

On Monday, Omar also announced a five-year jail term for book store owners
found selling material critical of Islam and about other religions.

Despite the ban on evangelism, followers of other faiths have been allowed
to continue practicing their religions.

A large Sikh and Hindu community worships at several temples in Kabul, the
capital, and a lone Jewish rabbi still lives in the city though most Jews
left when the former Soviet Union invaded in 1979.

The Taliban control about 95 percent of Afghanistan. Their opposition, led
by ousted president Burhanuddin Rabbani, rules in the other area. Fighting
between the two sides has raged in recent weeks in central Bamiyan
province, where the Taliban said Sunday they regained control of the key
city of Yakaolong.

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