May 23 (Middle East News Online)--Afghanistan's Taliban rulers are considering a plan to institute a dress code for the Hindu population that would distinguish them from Muslims. The proposal would require Hindu women to veil themselves in opposition to the Hindus beliefs, with the aim to protect non-Muslim women from being harassed by Afghani religious police enforcing Islamic law.

Recent reports indicate that at least 6,000 Hindus live in Kabul and thousands more live in other Afghan cities. The new edict will be enforced immediately once it is approved by the head of the Taliban's religious police, Mohammad Wali.

A Taliban representative said this ruling is supported by Islamic scholars who believe such actions are sanctioned by Islamic laws derived from the text of the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammed.

The Islamic world is reportedly puzzled over what Qur'anic text the Taliban scholars will use to justify their decision. The Taliban's version of Islam appears to many Muslims to be a new-born faith developed, canonized, and interpreted by Taliban scholars with the reclusive supreme leader, Mohammed Omar at the helm giving his stamp of approval for implementation.

Islam is normally regarded as a religion that protects members of different faiths. Islamic law is generally regarded to mandate the protection of religious minorities living among Muslims, but they're never required to wear distinctive clothing or identifying marks or veiling their women. Indeed, it was the Muslims who were encouraged to distinguish themselves by dressing and acting differently from the non-Muslim population.

Over time, the Taliban have issued what many Muslims believe are incomprehensible edicts that contradict the Qur'an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammed. Many Muslims believe the only outcome out of this recent action is the tarnishing of Islam and its adherents.

The Taliban earlier this year ordered all Buddhist statutes in the country destroyed, including two ancient stone statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in central Bamiyan.

Oswald Gracias, the secretary general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, strongly condemned this latest proposal and has called on the world and all those who believe in human rights to stand up against these violations and to protect the Hindu minorities.

Hindu-dominated India also denounced the measures. Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Raminder Singh Jassal told reporters in New Delhi, "We absolutely deplore such orders which patently discriminate against minorities." India's hardline Hindu group known as the Shiv Sena says the Taliban move could inflame passions against the Muslim minority in India.

Hundred of protesters marched down busy streets in the central Indian city of Bhopal carrying an effigy of a bearded Taliban soldier. "Taliban, die!" shouted some of the marchers, members of the Hindu fundamentalist movement Bajrang Dal.

In Washington, the State Department condemned the move, saying it is the latest in a long list of outrageous oppressions that the Taliban has inflicted on the Afghans. A spokesman said Washington remains committed to making sure that Taliban complies with international norms of behavior on human rights.

Hindus originally first came from India to Afghanistan in 1747. They numbered around 50,000 in the early 70s; however, most left after the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan in 1979. Fighting in 1992 destroyed five of the seven temples used jointly by Hindus and Sikhs in Kabul. Only one temple remains operational.
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