When Afghan parliamentarians went to London earlier this month to participate in a major donor’s conference, it was a milestone of sorts, with a presidency and Parliament working side by side to solve the nation’s problems. But for Al-Hajj Abdul Jabbar Shalgarai, a conservative legislator, the trip was distinctly un-Islamic. He saw the participation of two Afghan women parliamentarians – who traveled without their husbands – as a breach of the law.
Law? What law? Did these members of the new government pass a law requiring chaperones and then in the giddiness of being included in the conference forget to bring them? Nope.
So while President Hamid Karzai and his delegation were securing promises of aid, Mr. Shalgarai told his fellow parliamentarians that they were all obliged to follow the Islamic sharia law, which forbids women – including women parliamentarians – from taking long journeys without being accompanied by a male member of the family.
“This country is the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the Constitution says that nothing can be done in Afghanistan that is against sharia law,” says Shalgarai, recalling his statements in Parliament. “I don’t want to pass a new law into the Constitution; we already have a law, and it is in sharia.”