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Taliban begin sweeping book purge in universities, targeting political, religious texts

AT News

KABUL – The Taliban’s Ministry of Higher Education has issued a directive to private universities and higher education institutions across Afghanistan, calling for the removal of books deemed “contradictory to Hanafi jurisprudence, political, and pose challenges to faith.”

The directive, signed by Sheikh Shakirullah Wahdat, head of the ministry’s Invitation and Guidance department, was dated December 14, 2023. It explicitly outlines the removal of materials considered religiously or politically inappropriate and advocates their replacement with “biographical depictions of Prophet Muhammad.”

Neda Mohammad Nadim, the Taliban’s acting Minister of Higher Education at Syed Jamaluddin Afghan University in Kunar Province, claimed that in Afghanistan, ‘there are no sects,’ asserting that all inhabitants follow Hanafi jurisprudence. However, it’s noteworthy that Afghanistan has a diverse population that includes followers of the Shia denomination.

This latest order comes on the heels of a similar directive issued on November 22, 2023, by Nadim, which called for the removal of books from the “Republican era” and their replacement with biographies of Prophet Muhammad. The earlier directive specifically targeted books written by Salafis, Shiites, and political opponents of the Taliban.

The Taliban’s acting Minister of Higher Education previously announced the appointment of Imams and religious preachers in each state university to instill strong beliefs and Quranic recitation in instructors. The group has also established Sharia faculties in 17 state universities, significantly increasing the credit units for Islamic culture in universities.

Since assuming control of Afghanistan, the Taliban has declared the nullification of all previous government laws, including those related to higher education. Nadim emphasized that the principles and regulations of the previous system are considered null and void, with no legitimacy in the eyes of the Taliban. However, the group has yet to establish specific laws governing the education system.

Over the past two years, the Taliban has implemented extensive restrictions on educational institutions in Afghanistan. These measures include prohibiting girls and women from attending schools and universities, confining female professors, removing specialized subjects, intensifying the focus on religious studies, introducing inspection departments, and implementing regulations promoting specific moral codes. Furthermore, the group has revised 22 scientific curricula across universities. These restrictive measures have raised significant concerns among university students and professors, resulting in resignations and even some departures from the country.

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