Last update: April 2022
Afghanistan’s highly diverse society includes urban, rural and tribal segments, each having norms and mechanisms to settle disputes. Islamic values, concepts and practices influence many social and behavioural norms throughout society. Customs and customary law also continue to play a valuable and important role in Afghan society; customs are adhered to by individuals within a family, while customary law encompasses normative principles adhered to by a community, and those traditions differ among groups. It is a widely held perception among Afghans that customary laws are in line with Islamic sharia; however, in practice the two contradict one another at times [Society-based targeting, 1.1, 1.5].
Sharia law allows for different interpretations and varies between different schools of thought. The Taliban’s view of Sharia law is based on the Sunni Hanafi school of jurisprudence, but it is also influenced by local traditions and tribal codes [Country Focus 2022, 1.4].
The implementation of Sharia law differed in areas controlled by the Taliban during their time as an insurgency. There were also reports indicating a tendency to implement gradually stricter policies as they gained influence in an area [Country Focus 2022, 1.4].
During the first press conference after the takeover, Taliban spokesmen emphasized that Afghanistan was a Muslim nation and that there would be ‘a strong Islamic government’. They announced that they intended to act on the basis of their principles, religion and culture, and emphasised the importance of Islam and that ‘nothing should be against Islamic values’ [Country Focus 2022, 1.1.3].
The Taliban have also made clear statements regarding the required adherence to the Sharia. Private channels have reportedly reduced content that pose a risk of provoking the Taliban, such as pop music shows or foreign soap operas [Security September 2021, 1.1.4]. Furthermore, while the Taliban ‘have not banned art outright’, they have closed music schools, and radio and television networks were reported to have stopped airing songs, musicals and comedy shows. Some Taliban fighters are enforcing their own rules, and have harassed and attacked musicians and music venues [Country Focus 2022, 2.9].
There were reports indicating local divergence in implementing Islamic rule and official policy. For example, in some areas of southern Afghanistan, more conservative social policies reflecting more conservative norms were reported, although conservative traditions impacted the public life even before the Taliban takeover. It was also reported that Taliban fighters seemingly acted on their own initiative in implementing Sharia law and their reactions to behaviour perceived as non-compliant with Taliban moral and religious norms seemed to differ. On one hand, there have been Taliban leadership’s assurances that people could resume their daily lives. A Taliban handbook outlined a ‘gentler approach’ for dealing with persons who did not follow Taliban’s interpretation of Sharia law. However, this handbook reportedly set different stages for responses to prohibited acts, stretching from education and guidance to the use of force. On the other hand, instances where men were stopped and harassed by Taliban fighters for wearing Western style clothes or cutting beards, and women for leaving their homes without a male relative or not wearing burqa were reported [Country focus, 1.2, 1.4, 2.1].
With regard to an overview of the position of women after the Taliban takeover see Situation of women after the Taliban takeover.
See other topics concerning individuals perceived to have transgressed moral and/or societal norms: