Taliban ideology: a mixture of Islamic fundamentalism and Pashtun customs

His interpretation of Islam excludes the slightest deviation from orthodoxy. Its penal code imposes corporal punishment reminiscent of the Middle Ages. They separate women from the public space and when they have access to them, they must completely cover the shape of their body, from head to toe. They ban music and all other entertainment. This is the description of the Taliban society we knew in the 1990s, but it could be the Islamic State (ISIS), Saudi Arabia (before the latest social reforms) and even the Revolutionary Iran at the start. Radical Islamists have a lot in common, but they are not the same.

These similarities have led some observers to equate the ideology of the Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban themselves call themselves, with Saudi Wahhabism. Undoubtedly, the money that the Desert Kingdom sent to Pakistan to finance the United States’ war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s radicalized the students of the madrasas and fostered the extremist advance in the region, where prevailed a movement. local known as deobandi, appeared in the 19th century and of Sufi origin. But the Taliban are not Wahhabis, and their morals for society have more to do with their Pashtun origins than with Islam.

Bashir Ahmad, professor of Islamic studies, explains that “there are many differences between Taliban ideology and Wahhabism”, which equates to the ideology of the Islamic State, with which the new rulers of Kabul compete. “The Taliban follow the jurisprudence we call Hanafi, and [los grupos wahabíes] they don’t attend any of the schools [del islam suní] Hanafi, Shafii, Maliki or Hanbali; they have their own ideas, ”he said in a conversation from Kabul.

It is, explains Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani expert on the Taliban phenomenon, “a movement built on Islamic fundamentalism and strict adherence to the conservative Pashtun culture”. This seemingly academic distinction may be key to the Taliban’s ability to be flexible as leaders. Perhaps the most visible and easily understood example is the burqa, a common garment in Pashtun society, but unprecedented in the rest of the Islamic world.

In their first government, the Taliban imposed the burqa Afghans, especially in cities outside their stronghold, where their customs were more challenged. In the countryside, the existing segregation was sufficient, and the nomads kuchi They never used this coat with only a slit at eye level. Now they are talking about the compulsory nature of the Hello, No burqa.

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Being a cultural imperative rather than a religious one allows for flexibility. Only 40 to 50% of the Afghan population is Pashtun; the other half, although made up of ethnic minorities who are also Muslim and generally conservative, do not adhere to the same codes. It remains to be seen what the rules will be and whether the veil will allow women to work and participate in public life, as is the case in Iran (under a Shiite Islamist regime), or whether the objective is to lock them away. houses. Houses.

The comparison with Iran has also emerged these days following the leak that the leader of the Taliban will become the country’s highest authority, comparable to a head of state, with the final say in religious, political matters. and military. . The figure refers to Iran’s Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, the Taliban are Sunnis and in Sunni tradition the idea of ​​following a guide (the concept of taqleed) It’s controversial. While the Deobandis accept it, the Salafis reject it.

Regarding the appointment of Hibatullah Akhunzadah as supreme leader, Ahmad explains that “this is the standard of the Taliban”. “There is a big difference between the Iranian government and the Taliban government. Maybe from the outside it seems [un cargo] like that of the Iranian government, but there is no relation ”, underlines this professor of the Salam University of Kabul, without going into the precise details of the difference. “You will understand it better in the next few days,” he replies when asked for an example.

Another important difference from the Wahhabis – or Salafists as they prefer to be called – is the concept of jihad, or holy war. While for the latter it is a must (as seen in Al Qaeda or ISIS), for the Deobandis it is a less strict concept. In fact, while the Taliban once housed al Qaeda, they have never been linked to operations outside their country. Therefore, the United States did not include them on its list of terrorist organizations (although it did include one of its factions, the Haqqani Network) and does not believe that they are now a direct threat to their interests.

Significantly, the theological seminary of Dar ul Ulum in the Indian city of Deoband, from which the deobandi movement was born and took its name, has always supported the aspirations of the Taliban, but condemns Islamist terrorism (it even issued a fatwa on this subject). In 2008).

Also the Salafists are more intolerant than the Deobandis towards non-Muslims (suitcase) and even Muslims who do not follow their line, as evidenced by the treatment that the Islamic State reserved for minorities (Yazidis, Christians or Shiites) when they imposed themselves in northern Iraq and southern Iraq. Syria. When asked whether the ideology of the Taliban is closer to the Iranian theocracy or the Saudi regime, Ahmad responds neither. “They have their own idea of ​​government,” he concludes.

Although this seems contradictory given the doctrinal differences inherent in the two branches of Islam, other analysts are convinced that the Taliban today have a better political relationship with Tehran than with Riyadh.

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