Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Reform Jewish Movement Condemns New Taliban Policy Requiring Non-Muslims to Wear Identifying Clothes

Saperstein: "Today's news, with its clear echo of Nazi Germany's stigmatizing policies and the deadly results those policies wreaked, shows a dangerous escalation of religious intolerance."

Contact: Jeff Mandell (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2001 - Reacting to news reports that Afghanistan's Islamic Taliban regime, long-characterized by human rights abuses, has decided to require all non-Muslim's in Afghanistan to wear clothing clearly identifying them as non-Muslims, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement. A long-time advocate for religious liberty, Rabbi Saperstein served as the inaugural Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The complete text of Rabbi Saperstein's statement follows:

    For years, Afghanistan's militant Islamic Taliban regime has committed horrendous civil and human rights abuses, including civilian massacres and acts of religious persecution. Human rights advocates the world over have become accustomed to condemning the Taliban's actions and pronouncements. Today's news, however, that the Taliban will now require all Hindus (the largest religious minority in Afghanistan, though most have reportedly fled the nation because of the Taliban's adherence to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law) to wear prominent badges on their clothing identifying them as non-Muslims leaps out from even the appalling record the Taliban has compiled since it rose to power in late 1994. The Taliban's proffered explanation - that the identifying clothing will assist state police who require Muslims to close stores and go to Mosques for prayer - is itself a from of religious coercion that is in blatant violation of international accords on religious freedom. Today's news, with its clear echo of Nazi Germany's stigmatizing policies and the deadly results those policies wreaked, shows a dangerous escalation of religious intolerance.

    In Nazi Germany, Jews were forced to wear bright yellow Stars of David. Later homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles, and gypsies, Catholics, and others were required to wear their own identifying badges. In the years since the Holocaust, these badges have evolved into symbols of intolerance and tyranny. When we speak about the Holocaust today, powerful and horrific images come to mind: forced labor, starvation, torture, mass genocide. And we know that these horrific events began with a series of small, seemingly insignificant laws designed to separate, stigmatize, and disadvantage those minorities who the Nazis did not favor.

    The lesson of the Holocaust is best captured in the common commitment that Jews and people of conscience the world over have made in its aftermath: Never again. Never again will the world allow a minority - religious, ethnic, racial, or otherwise - to be systematically eliminated from any society. Never again will the world turn its back on the oppressed and the persecuted of any nation, even a nation that has deliberately withdrawn from the international community. We urge the United States government to mobilize the world community to stand together to condemn the Taliban's edict that non-Muslim's must wear identifying badges and to urge a halt to its human rights and religious freedom abuses.


    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.

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