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Democracy in Afghanistan: Mullahs into the Fold

Mullah Malawi Abduhlah Fayaz is a leader of the effort in Kandahar to support September's election on religious grounds. He opposed Taliban rule and says the Koran supports democracy and voting by women.
Tom Bullock, NPR /
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Mullah Malawi Abduhlah Fayaz is a leader of the effort in Kandahar to support September's election on religious grounds. He opposed Taliban rule and says the Koran supports democracy and voting by women.

In Afghanistan, nothing happens without "inshallah" -- the ubiquitous phrase that means "God willing." The country's September elections will test the collective will of the nation to attempt something that's never happened there before: a truly democratic election.

The importance of the election has prompted Afghanistan's interim government to pay special attention to the clerics, or mullahs, who have a huge amount of influence over this Islamic nation. In a nation where televisions, radios and newspapers are scarce, Afghanistan's estimated 150,000 mosques are the only true "mass media."

NPR's Renee Montagne returned to Afghanistan recently to profile the nation's shift from the rule of the Taliban to a democracy. What she found was a resurgent Taliban, waging a peculiar guerilla war to restore its extreme vision of a "pure" Islamic nation.

Election workers are threatened, and sometimes killed. Anyone supporting the elections is a target -- including some of the nation's clerics. Some mullahs work to deliver the message of democracy, yet others denounce voter registration drives and preach that women should never have the right to vote.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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