Taliban Slams World's Propaganda Drive
From ININ and AFP, 24 May 2001
Taliban today has criticized what they called a ``propaganda drive'' by world powers over their decision to require Hindus to wear a yellow identity patch, saying Thursday that the move is aimed at protecting the religious minority.

``It is unfortunate that some countries, for their selfish interests, are attacking'' the Taliban for the decision, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Taliban-run Radio Kabul.

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced it planned to require Hindus to wear identification patches to distinguish them from Muslims. The move has been harshly criticized by several countries traditionally hostile to Islam including the United States, Russia, Germany and Hindu-dominated India.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer on Thursday called the Taliban decision ``unjustifiable'' and ``serious discrimination.''

In the Indian capital of New Delhi on Thursday, a group of Sikh and Hindu demonstrators urged the United Nations to persuade the Taliban to reverse their decision.

But the Taliban has justifiably rejected the criticism.

``The move is not meant to harm or humiliate Hindus,'' Mohammed Wali, the Taliban minister for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, was quoted as saying. ``It is for their own safety and to protect them'' from the religious police enforcing Islamic law, he said.

The Taliban say the yellow tag will keep Hindus from being stopped by police and prevent Muslims from claiming they are Hindu when violating religious laws. Muslim men are required to wear beards in Afghanistan, and they sometimes claim they are Hindu when arrested for shaving. Conversely, clean-shaven Hindus are sometimes arrested erroneously.

Calling the Islamic directive discriminatory is ``remote'' from reality, the Foreign Ministry statement said, maintaining the Taliban adopted the measure at the request of Hindus.

``It is a matter of grave concern for us that the international community and the international media are transforming a small issue into a big issue,'' it said.

Hindus in Afghanistan have not been the target of persecution and have generally been allowed to practice their religion freely. But over two decades of war, the number of Hindus has dwindled from a high of about 50,000 during the 1970s to 500 in the capital and small pockets elsewhere.

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