Afghan Lawmakers Pass Resolution Aimed at Censoring Un-Islamic Images on TV, Barring Interest on Bank Accounts

Afghanistan's lower house of Parliament passed a resolution Monday seeking to bar television programs from showing dancing and other practices deemed un-Islamic.

The decision came just days after the private Tolo TV channel aired a dance number featuring men and women together on an Afghan film awards program.

The Information and Culture Ministry condemned the scene, saying "dancing by men and women together was completely against the culture of the Afghan, Muslim society."

The parliamentary resolution, drafted by a commission for cultural and religious affairs, said dancers should not be shown on television, and un-Islamic scenes should be cut from Indian TV series broadcast in Afghanistan, said Din Mohammad Azimi, a lawmaker and member of the commission.

Azimi said the resolution also includes an article saying Afghan banks should not offer interest-bearing accounts because Islamic law forbids interest.

The resolution, which is not now legally binding and cannot be enforced, will go before the upper house of Parliament for consideration, Azimi said. It would also have to be approved by the president before becoming law.

Afghanistan's media landscape has bloomed following the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime in 2001, and Tolo TV has become one of the country's most popular channels with its steady stream of programing, including music videos and Indian soap operas.

But government officials and powerful factional leaders frequently pressure broadcasters because of programs deemed too racy or overly critical.

Last year gunmen entered the home of Zakia Zaki, the female owner of a radio station, and shot her to death in front of her 8-year-old son. Zaki had apparently criticized local warlords who warned her to change her station's programming.

Shaima Rezayee, a popular host for an MTV-style music show, was shot dead in 2005 after clerics criticized her show as "anti-Islamic."

Tolo TV's owner Saad Mohseni said the dancing on the awards show Friday was "very tame by any standard" and the women were dressed modestly.

Tolo TV often blurs any images deemed insulting to Islam, such as statues of Hindu gods on Indian programs and even the uncovered necks and shoulders of Indian actresses.

"It's the re-Talibanization of Afghan society," Mohseni said. "Every single week they come up with something new."

He called on the Afghan government and the international community to take a stand against the religious conservatives, saying they "cannot allow a very small minority within Afghan society to call the shots."