The ultra-puritanical Taliban militia ruling most of Afghanistan has toughened penalties for men who trim or shave their beards, officials said Monday.
They said militia Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar has issued a decree ordering all government agencies to ignore men who have trimmed their facial hair.
Copies of the decree, which have been glued to the gates of many ministries, say men must follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad, who had a beard, and obey the Taliban's strict version of Islamic Sharia law.
The decree says "a small number of people" still trim their facial hair, leading to disputes with the religious police.
"In view of the above problems, all the Emirate authorities are bound not to do the work of those people who have shortened or shaven their beards against the Sharia law," it says.
The decree makes allowances for men with problems such as skin diseases or who have just returned to Afghanistan from abroad.
The Taliban forced men to sport untrimmed beards soon after their 1996 capture of Kabul, once known as a liberal city but now the focus of the Taliban's experiment in creating a "pure" Islamic state.
Religious police teams patrol the major cities and beat or detain men with shortened beards for up to 10 days. They are usually released after passing a religious test.
Almost all men here have long beards, usually black or gray although some are dyed a fashionable red.
The Taliban have also ordered women to be totally covered from head to toe while in public and have barred them from attending school or working outside the home, except in the health sector.
Mulla Omar recently appointed Mawlawi Abdul Hai to replace Mawlawi Salim Haqqani as professional deputy of the religious police, officially known as the ministry of preventing vice and fostering virture.
The hardline Haqqani was made administrative deputy -- KABUL (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )