Afghan ministry upholds singer ban

Afghanistan's US-backed government has re-imposed a ban preventing women singing on state television just days after it was lifted.

    Changing traditions: Liberalisation or cultural imperialism?

    The decision to restore the ban followed a protest from the Supreme Court, officials said on Thursday.

    On Monday, Kabul Television featured old footage of Parasto performing without a headscarf, a well-known singer who now lives in the West.

    The ministry responsible for broadcasting said the move was in line with a newly approved constitution giving "equal rights" for women to sing and dance publicly.

    Respect for law

    But the Supreme Court wrote in protest to the Information and Culture Minister Sayyid Makhdum Rahin saying the decision to lift the ban was in defiance of Islamic law.

    "We were told to stop airing the songs on Wednesday evening and we did so," said a spokesman for Kabul TV.

    Rahin was seen as the key figure behind the lifting of the ban. "I have nothing to say about it now," he said when asked about its re-imposition.

    "If the songs are aired, that means the Information Ministry would be the first organ of the government to violate the constitution"

    Faisal Ahmad Manawi, 
    Deputy Chief Justice

    Deputy Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Manawi told journalists on Wednesday the Supreme Court was "opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole" and added: "This is totally against the decisions of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped."

    The ban was justified, since the constitution stated clearly that no laws could be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam, which does not allow for women dancers and singers.

    "If the songs are aired, that means the Information Ministry would be the first organ of the government to violate the constitution."

    Decade old ban

    The ban had been in force for nearly 12 years since a government of mujahidin replaced a communist  in Kabul.

    In 1996, the even more conservative Taliban took Kabul and banned all television as part of its strict imposition of sharia, or traditional Islamic law.

    The latest development is an embarrassment and a setback for westernisers in interim President Hamid Karzai's government as they battle with conservatives with different cultural values.

    The initial removal of the ban came weeks after the replacement of the conservative head of Kabul Radio and Television.



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