Afghans crack down on imported pleasures
Newly democratic society grapples with influx of foreign influence
By Pamela Constable
Updated: 4:36 a.m. ET Aug 7, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan - Behind an unmarked door on a quiet residential street, half a dozen young Chinese women in miniskirts shimmy to disco tapes or sit entwined with beefy European men. Next to the fully stocked bar, a plastic Christmas tree pulses with tiny lights.
Behind a desk in a spartan government office, a bearded official says he is swamped with job applicants for a proposed department to promote virtue and discourage vice, which would send out religious monitors to uncover and correct un-Islamic behavior in the populace.
Both scenes coexist in a confused, newly democratic Muslim society grappling with a five-year influx of foreign troops and visitors, who have provided aid and protection but have also brought alcohol, prostitution and other tempting taboos to the deeply traditional and long-isolated country.
In recent weeks, the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai has moved aggressively to crack down on what Afghans call imported vices. He is acting partly in response to pressure from domestic religious leaders and partly to upstage Islamic Taliban insurgents who are stepping up attacks across the south.
Police in this capital of 4 million, which is also home to several thousand foreigners, have raided about a dozen restaurants and shops suspected of selling alcohol to Afghans and have seized and destroyed thousands of bottles. Officers have detained more than 100 Chinese women as suspected prostitutes, seven of whom were deported at the airport here Wednesday.
The cabinet also approved reviving the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and the Discouragement of Vice, a body that Afghan governments have maintained through much of the country's history. It became notoriously punitive under Taliban rule, from 1996 to 2001, when turbaned enforcers whipped women if their veils slipped and arrested men for wearing too-short beards or playing chess.
The proposal ....
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