Taliban: Hindus Must Wear Identity Labels

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia said Tuesday it will require Hindus to wear labels on their clothing to distinguish them from Muslims, a proposal sharply denounced by the United States and India.

The Taliban said the measure, which also would require Hindu women to be veiled, was aimed at keeping non-Muslims from being harassed by religious police enforcing Islamic law.

The order, reminiscent of Nazi Germany's rule forcing Jews to wear a Star of David, brought more criticism upon the group which is already isolated for its harsh brand of Islam and treatment of women.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the order was "the latest in a long list of outrageous oppressions. Forcing social groups to wear distinctive clothing or identifying marks stigmatizes and isolates those groups and can never, never be justified."

"One would hope that we have learned from history," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor.

In India, where Hindus are in the majority, thousands marched through Bhopal carrying an effigy of a Taliban soldier and shouting "Taliban, die!" About 500 Hindus live in the Afghan capital of Kabul. There are no reliable figures for those outside the capital.

"Once Hindu homes, Hindu women are identified, it is easy to rob their houses and harass the women," said Abhimanyu Gulati of India's Shiv Sena Hindu group.

The dress code is the latest example of the Taliban's determination to impose its extreme interpretation of Islam on the nearly 95% of the country that it controls.

It recently ordered the destruction of all of the country's statues, including two ancient Buddhas, and closed down a 120-bed Italian-run hospital because it allowed men and women to eat in the same room. The Taliban bars women from most jobs and education; requires men to wear beards and pray five times a day; and bans all forms of light entertainment.

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