Cable TV Un-Islamic, Says Afghan Judge

Afghanistan's chief justice said Tuesday he had shut down cable television channels in Kabul and also wanted an end to co-education, arguing both were un-Islamic.

Mawlavi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, the chief justice and president of the Supreme Court, told Reuters he had issued orders on Monday to close down five cable television stations in Kabul following similar action in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

"People who filed complaints to the Supreme Court said they were airing half-naked singers and obscene scenes from movies," Shinwari said.

"Because of this, I asked the police to stop their activities. What they aired clearly was contrary to Islam and against morality and we had to issue the order."

Shinwari also said he wanted an end of co-education in Afghanistan, arguing that it was forbidden under Islamic law.

"Sharia (Islamic law) does not allow mixed education for girls and boys. I can say explicitly that co-education is not permissible in Islam and I want the implementation of the law of Islam," he said.

Shinwari, an elderly and conservative Islamic cleric, belongs to one of the mujahideen (holy warrior) factions that fought the 10-year occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union in the 1980s.

His comments were reminiscent of the sort made by leaders of the fundamentalist Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan for five years until late 2001 and banned all education of women, television and even photography.

Shinwari said he did not know whether U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai would enforce segregation of schools.

"It is up to the government and the education ministry whether to take steps to follow the law. I have told them about the issue and fulfilled my responsibility in this regard."


Hundreds of thousands of girls have returned to school in Afghanistan since the Taliban was overthrown with the help of massive U.S. firepower.

Shinwari said Western countries should not object to Islamic orders and rulings as under a U.N.-sponsored agreement that created Karzai's government, Afghanistan's judicial system was supposed to be independent.

He said a religious commission composed of two clerics from each of Afghanistan's 32 provinces would be formed in a month's time to act as a consultative body to the government on religion.

"Karzai has approved this idea," he said.

Cable television operators said the order to shut them down was unfair as they had received licenses from Karzai's government.

"There seems to be contradiction here," said one, who did not want to be named. "They knew what sort of programs we were running when we initially got the license for operation."

Another described it as part of a struggle between the Islamists and pro-Western elements in Karzai's government, which consists of both Western educated Afghans and former mujahideen.

The United Nations and New York-based Human Rights Watch have criticized a recent decision by the conservative governor of the western city of Herat, Ismail Khan, forbidding the teaching of women by men and barring the holding of classes for women in the same building as those for men.

Shinwari voiced no objections to Khan's ruling.

"It is up to him and others what they want to do or have done," he said. "I have told authorities what I think about the co-education issue."