This year, we have seen a spike in calibrated kidnappings and killings by Islamist and Jihadi forces across Afghanistan. In March, a Mullah orchestrated a mob lynching of a 27-year old woman in Kabul. Last month, the Taliban released a video showing the stoning of a 19-year old woman in Afghanistan’s Ghor province. The following week, the decapitated bodies of seven Shia Hazaras, murdered by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, were found in Zabul. These barbaric acts committed in the name of Islam are only a sampling of the many incidents meant to incite sectarian conflict and communal wars. The increase in such violence begs the question: “What is the future of Islam in Afghanistan?”
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani continues his predecessor’s legacy of appeasing the Mujahideen warlords who rose to power during the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s. These former warlords transformed Afghanistan into an Islamic State between 1992 and 1996, joining Hamid Karzai’s administration in 2002 after the toppling of the Taliban. The Mujahideen, now a part of the government and themselves Muslim purists representing a conservative and traditionalist political base, do not object to the violence.
While Afghanistan today is technically a transitional democracy, it remains an Islamic Republic. Islamic jurisprudence supersedes secular law. Under sharia law, it is permissible to stone a person for adultery or pre-marital sex, or to behead a person for being an apostate or homosexual. Islamic laws allow the Mujahideen and other rogue elements to retain their power as the next generation, 70 percent of which is under the age of 25 and increasingly globalized thanks to connectivity with the wider world, approaches adulthood. The Hazara-led protests erupted in Kabul in response to the beheading in Zabul and were followed by demonstrations in major cities across the country. The thousands of Afghan peace activists that poured into the streets are a testament to how tired they are with the lawlessness and retrogression of Islam, and how determined they are to spark a change in the status quo.
In the aftermath of last year’s U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan, President Ghani’s administration must address mounting pressure on an Afghani society reeling from a security meltdown and a dearth of economic opportunities. Afghans continue to flee Taliban-controlled areas. Yet the doors to refugees are closed in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, and Germany has recently vowed to deport Afghan asylum seekers. The nearby Gulf States also refuse to accept refugees from any country.
With few options left for Afghans, President Ghani must take steps toward implementing secular reforms that will drive a more progressive Afghanistan. In response to the Zabul beheadings, Ghani reiterated on November 11, 2015 that ISIL militants “are deliberately attempting such evil actions to create division among our people.” However, the source of growing Islamism and Jihadism is the “divide and conquer” policies of Islam, which legitimatize the superiority of madrassas over academic institutions, men over women, Sunni over Shia, Muslims over disbelievers, heterosexuals over homosexuals, superstition over science, and terrorists over civilians. This inequality and oppression illuminates how antithetical sharia law is to human development and lasting peace.
Until the government of Afghanistan—and all Muslim societies—decriminalize apostasy, adultery, and homosexuality, minorities will continue to have no say over the absolutism of divine law, further perpetuating the culture of evil and violence, and criminalization without due course of justice. To end the misuse of religion and reverse Afghanistan’s brain drain, Ghani’s government must nullify divine law from the constitution. Many Afghans will initially resist this proposal, but eventually, the time will come when Afghanistan, and the entire Muslim World, realizes that full separation of mosque and state is the only way forward for an equitable and peaceful society.