All of this is made possible by the clause in the Afghan constitution that stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” (Chapter 1, Article 3). Accordingly, in spite of the lack of a formal, Iranian-style Guardian Council, the clerics and their allies in the government ultimately hold veto power over potential reforms that would protect civil liberties and human rights.
What-Are-We-Fighting-For Alert. “Afghan TV station falls under government crackdown,” by Heidi Vogt and Amir Shah for the Associated Press, March 24:
KABUL — The manager of an Afghan television network who refused to censor images of women dancing in short skirts and plunging necklines was arrested in what appeared to be a new sign of the government’s struggle to define the role of Islam in a country once led by extremists.
That’s the problem — it has been defined. Now, the country has to deal with the perpetual conflict generated by those who believe you can never have too much sharia. To that end, they will agitate for ever stricter implementation, either invoking precedents like this case and the constitution itself, or resorting directly to warfare.
The government has previously censured television stations and taken others to court, but the arrest of Emrose TV’s Fahim Khodamani on Monday was the first for airing overly salacious content, the Afghan deputy attorney general said Tuesday.
The debate over television in this conservative Muslim country heated up after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. […]
Since the Taliban fell, television stations have flourished, pitting the issue of freedom of the press against conservative norms in a country where most women wear clothes that cover everything but their face and neck.
The issue has become even more complicated with the resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in the past few years “” gains that President Barack Obama hopes to counter by sending an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to the country this year.
Afghanistan’s culture minister has warned that the Taliban use racy broadcasts like those on Emrose as a tool in their culture war “” recruiting villagers who feel that the government is too influenced by Western morals.
Aggressive Afghan government attempts to censor TV programs could be part of a strategy to temper conflict with the Taliban. Or it could be an attempt to siphon support from Afghans drawn to the Taliban’s conservative style of Islam.
Many Afghan TV stations cut or blur scenes with women showing more than their face or neck, taking a conservative stance to avoid violating a vague government law that prohibits media content that is not “within the framework of Islam.”
And, of course, that is not out of step with the constitution.
Khodamani was arrested for refusing repeated requests to pixelate or otherwise obscure images of women dancing in short skirts or outfits with low necklines, said Deputy Attorney General Fazel Ahmad Faqiyar.
The videos are relatively tame by Western standards, but manny [sic] do feature women in tight outfits or showing off cleavage. In one typical video, an Indian woman emerges from a pool of water with a thin dress that clings to her body.
There is clearly an audience for it in Afghanistan. Does that mean the clerics dropped the ball somewhere, or is it another facet of the grand Zionist-American conspiracy theory?
Afghanistan’s media oversight commission repeatedly reproached the channel for the amount of bare skin on its programs, and for airing pop music videos during the Islamic holiday of Ashoura in January, according to Faqiyar and the station’s owner, Najibullah Kabuli.
Kabuli confirmed that Khodamani refused to edit or censor the programming, saying it was station policy to air unaltered programs.
He said the demand and Khodamani’s arrest were “against freedom of speech and democracy.” Kabuli, who is also a member of parliament, said the arrest may have been masterminded by his political enemies.
The arrest comes days after Afghanistan’s top Muslim clerics called on the government to block stations from “airing prohibited and hypocritical anti-Islam programs and immoral scenes and movies.”…