The Taliban arose from the mujahideen who fought the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s. The backdrop for their rise is multi-faceted and includes both the conflict and aftermath of decades of war as well as intervention by various regional players. Most Taliban are members of the Pathan ethnic group that resides in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Actions by some members of the Taliban have shown a clear rejection and violation of several of the principles we identify as fundamental to Islam, including respect for life, human dignity, freedom of religion and conscience, and freedom of thought and expression. The Taliban’s interpretation and practice of Islam reflects a very narrow and inflexible interpretation that has been informed by external and internal influences that have come into play during decades of warfare, including among them a tribal culture that is extremely patriarchal. This cultural context impacts their attitudes in many areas, especially their views and interpretations relating to women. They have been widely criticized by other Muslims for their treatment of women, specifically for their ban on women’s education and work, as well as their strict dress requirements for both genders and their harsh punishments for violations of their laws.

They have also interpreted Sharia to prohibit a wide variety of activities, including sports for women, kite flying, beard trimming, recreation, entertainment, and other matters where they have a much more rigid and extreme interpretation than most Muslims. Additionally, some members of the Taliban have engaged in actions viewed by the great majority of Muslims as prohibited by Islamic teachings, such as committing violence against civilians.

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