The Deobandi radicals have now struck back at Muslim women who do not want to cover their faces, and at the governments or employers that ban them from doing so. In May, Darul Uloom Deoband, the Deobandi central religious school in Lucknow, India, ruled that it is "haram" or forbidden, according to Shariah law, for any family to live from the earnings of a woman who works with men but does not cover her face.

To many Westerners, such legal opinions issued by radical Muslim clerics in faraway places may often seem merely bizarre. But the retreat of the Afghan government from opposition to the Taliban, as well as the dissemination of such a viewpoint in India, are both alarming indicators that the Taliban are gaining confidence in their victory.

The fact that it took 1,400 years of Muslim history for this absurd opinion to appear demonstrates that it is a radical departure from Islamic norms of any kind; it is clearly a reactionary attempt to keep the face-veil in place. Three Deobandi clerics declared, "It is unlawful for Muslim women to work in the government or private sector where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without a veil."

Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui, who reported on the Deobandi admonition in the Times of India, May 12th,wrote, "In Lucknow, a city with strong secular and progressive traditions, where Muslim families train their daughters to be doctors, engineers and executives, there was a sense of shocked disbelief even in conservative quarters that such a decree could come from those who consider themselves to be advocates of the community." Siddiqui said he considered the order "unlikely to be heeded," and quoted a local woman computer professional, Shabeena Parveen, who pointed out that every Muslim country has a national airline, and hires female flight attendants – none of them with a face veil, including Saudi Arabian Airlines.

But Siddiqui also noted that a Shia mullah in the city, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, recommended the Iranian clerical regime as a model in such questions. "Women in Islam are not supposed to go out and earn a living," Jawwad said. "It's the responsibility of the males in the family. If a woman has to go for a job, she must make sure that the Shariah restrictions are not compromised." Iranian Muslim women, he declared, could work in offices but only in segregated seating assignments.

The Deobandi school of radical Islam inspires the terrorism of the Taliban -- who, in all their actions have shown special cruelty and fanaticism -- in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across the globe. In tandem with Saudi-financed Wahhabis, its clerics seek to expand their rigid and intolerant religious interpretation into India, Bangladesh, and among the few Muslims of Burma. And most dismayingly, Deobandism maintains a significant presence in British Islam and among American Muslims of South Asian origin.

The Taliban have come to epitomize the worst excesses of fundamentalist violence. They aid and shelter Al-Qaida; they destroyed the Bamyan Buddhist monuments; and they attempted genocide against the Shia Hazara minority community in Afghanistan. They continue plotting atrocities, as seen in the New York Times Square bomb attempt, while committing bloody attacks across the Indian subcontinent.

But above all, they are repressive toward women, and in ways similar to the practices of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. The Deobandi clerics flaunt their polygamous relations with up to four women, as well as concubines. They enforce, by physical punishments, the wearing of the burqa, which covers the whole body and incorporates a mesh mask over the face. They thereby also impose the face-veil, which is not Islamic in origin, and is rejected by hundreds of millions of Muslim women. In Muslim countries as well as in the West, opposition to the face-veil, also known as niqab, is increasing.

Even worse, the influence of Deobandi/Taliban ideology in the South Asian Muslim communities abroad presents an added menace: the backward views of the Deobandi clerics give spurious legitimacy to their campaign to indoctrinate young Muslims -- and prepare them for terrorism.

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