Beliefnet
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghanistan's Taliban rulers - already isolated bytheir harsh brand of Islam andpoor treatment of women - announced plans to make Hindus wear an identity labelon their clothing todistinguish them from Muslims.

The hardline Taliban regime that controls 95 percent of this poor Central Asianstate plans to enforce theedict soon, Mohammed Wali, religious police minister, told The Associated Presson Tuesday. An exact date wasnot set, he said.

The law will also make it mandatory for Hindu women to veil themselves - justlike Muslim women ofAfghanistan, Wali said.

The edict - reminiscent of the yellow Star of David that Jews were forced towear in Nazi Germany - promptedan angry statement from Hindu-dominated India.

``We absolutely deplore such orders which patently discriminate againstminorities,'' Raminder Singh Jassal,an Indian foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters in New Delhi. ``It isfurther evidence of the backwardand unacceptable ideological underpinning of the Taliban.''

In the central Indian city of Bhopal, dozens of protesters from the Hindufundamentalist group Bajrang Dalmarched Tuesday, shouting angry slogans and carrying an effigy of a Talibansoldier with a beard and a greenscarf. ``Taliban, die!'' some chanted.

The National Volunteers Corps, a fundamentalist movement that is the ideologicalparent of India's rulingHindu nationalist party, condemned the Taliban.

``It is in line with the Taliban's interpretation of Islam, a religion whichdivides humanity into two: thebelievers and the infidels,'' said Baburao Vaidya, a spokesman for the corps,known by its Hindi acronym RSS.

``We criticize the very fundamentals of Islamic tenets,'' he told The AssociatedPress.

The decision could further isolate the orthodox Islamic militia, already underfire from the West for allegeddiscriminatory policies toward ethnic and religious minorities, human rightsabuses and poor treatment ofwomen.

In recent years, many Hindus and other members of religious minorities have leftAfghanistan because ofTaliban policies.

Wali said the latest Taliban edict is in line with Islam. ``Religious minoritiesliving in an Islamic statemust be identified,'' the minister said.

The Taliban have not yet decided what sort of an identity label Hindus will haveto wear, he added.

There are at least 5,000 Hindus living in Kabul. Thousands of other Hindus livein other Afghan cities, butthere are no reliable figures on exactly how many.

The new law will be meant for only Hindus because there are no Christians orJews in Afghanistan and Sikhs canbe easily recognized by their turbans, Wali said. However, at least one Jew isknown to live in the Afghancapital of Kabul and there may also be some Christians.

It was unclear whether foreigners living in Afghanistan would be required towear the identity label.

Anar, an Afghan Hindu in Kabul who uses just one name, said he does not want towear a label identifying himas Hindu.

``It will make us vulnerable and degrade our position in the society,'' he said.

But Munawaar Hasan, general secretary of a major Islamic political party inneighboring Pakistan calledJamaat-e-Islami, or Islamic Party, said the move seems aimed to give protectionto Hindus.

``The Taliban should win praise for this step,'' he said. ``Providing protectionto religious minorities is amust in any Islamic country and this step seems in line with this concept.''

The Taliban follow a harsh version of Islam that bars women from most jobs andeducation, and makes itmandatory for men to wear beards and pray five times a day. All forms of lightentertainment, includingtelevision and music, are outlawed.

The Taliban drew worldwide criticism when in March they destroyed two ancientstatues of Buddha in centralBamiyan, calling it their religious duty.

Most of the Islamic world, including pro-Taliban Pakistan, differ with theTaliban regime's narrowinterpretation of Islam and say that it is tarnishing Islam's image.

The Taliban face U.N. sanctions for giving protection to Saudi billionaire Osamabin Laden, wanted byWashington for allegedly running a global terrorist network. The Taliban denythe charge and say the UnitedStates has no evidence against him.

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