AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: MUSLIM
Religious Freedom in Afghanistan
A combination of contradictory laws, official ambivalence, popular prejudice and ongoing insurgency makes Afghanistan a place that remains largely hostile to religious freedom. The Afghan Constitution of 2004 contains potentially conflicting provisions regarding freedom of religion. On the one hand, the document pledges to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which contains strong guarantees of religious freedom, and declares that adherents to all religions are free to worship “within the provisions of the laws”. On the other hand, the constitution declares Islam the sole and official state religion, states that no law can contradict the beliefs and provisions of Islam, and restricts access to various public offices to Muslims. Other laws also discriminate against religious minorities. For example, Afghan courts will not register marriages involving non-Muslim Afghans, unless the couple consents to a Muslim religious ceremony. Moreover, Sharia governs topics on which the civil code is silent, such as blasphemy and conversion. This can result in harsh punishments for these and other acts, making formally legal activities like proselytism difficult. The shortcomings of the 2004 Constitution are enhanced by the challenges of guaranteeing religious freedom in practice. As of 2010, the Taliban insurgency continues to threaten large swaths of the country, particularly in the Pashtun-majority areas in the south and east. The Taliban have assassinated several religious leaders and forced several dozen schools to close.