This is the basic text view. The constitution states that Islam is the "religion of the state" and that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam. In the constitution accorded both Shia and Sunni Islam equal recognition. The constitution proclaims, "Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.
Residual effects of years of jihad against the Soviet Union, civil strife, Taliban rule, popular suspicion regarding outside influence and the motivations of foreigners, and weak democratic institutions remained serious obstacles. In May video footage of Christian converts being baptized aired on an Afghan television station and was re-aired every night for a week due to its popularity with the public.
The station did a series of follow up segments as well. In response, inflammatory public statements were made against Christian converts by two members of parliament. These incidents led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals. At least two individuals who converted from Islam remained in detention at the end of the reporting period. All individuals detained for conversion from Islam were released after the reporting period ended. Negative societal opinion and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity.
The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom. The constitution recognizes the right of the Shia minority to adjudicate personal and family matters according to Shia jurisprudence. The first version of the law attracted widespread criticism because of restrictions on the rights of women. The Ministry of Justice amended the text to remove the most controversial phrases; President Karzai signed the amended bill.
Many international partners The country's population is almost entirely Muslim. Non-Muslim minority groups, particularly Christian, Hindu, and Sikh groups, were targets of discrimination and persecution.
Conversion from Islam was understood by Shia and Sunni Islamic clergy, as well as many citizens, to contravene the tenets of Islam. Within the Muslim population, relations among the different sects continued to be difficult.
Historically the minority Shia community has faced discrimination from the majority Sunni population. This discrimination continued during the reporting period. Local Hindu and Sikh populations, although allowed to practice their religion publicly, continued to encounter problems obtaining land for cremation and historically have faced discrimination when seeking government jobs, as well as harassment during major celebrations. Most local Bahais and Christians did not publicly state their beliefs or gather openly to worship.
Religious Demography The country has an area of , square miles; population estimates ranged from 24 to 33 million. Reliable data on religious demography is not available because an official nationwide census has not been conducted in decades. Observers estimate that 80 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, 19 percent Shia Muslim, and other religious groups comprise less than 1 percent of the population.
According to self-estimates by these communities, there are approximately 3, Sikhs, more than Bahais, and Hindu believers. There is a small Christian community; estimates on its size range from to 8, In addition there are small numbers of adherents of other religious groups. There is one known Jewish citizen. Traditionally the dominant religion has been Islam, specifically the sect of Sunni Islam that follows the Hanafi School of jurisprudence. For the last years, much of the population adhered to Deobandi-influenced Hanafi Sunnism.
Many local Sunni religious scholars have either studied at Dar-ul-Ulum Deoband or were trained by scholars who studied there. A sizable minority also adhered to orders of Islamic spirituality and mysticism, generally known as Sufism. Sufism is organized by orders or brotherhoods both Sunni and Shia that follow charismatic religious leaders. During the 20th century, influence of the "Wahhabi" form of Islam grew in certain regions.
Historically members of the same religious groups have concentrated in certain regions. Sunni Pashtuns dominate the south and east. The homeland of the Shia Hazaras is in the Hazarajat, the mountainous central highland provinces around Bamyan province. Northeastern provinces traditionally have Ismaili populations. In the 20th century, small communities of Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs lived in the country, although most members of these communities emigrated during the years of civil war and Taliban rule.
By the end of Taliban rule, non-Muslim populations had been virtually eliminated except for a small population of native Hindus and Sikhs. Since the fall of the Taliban, some members of religious minorities have returned, many settling in Kabul. Nuristanis, a small but distinct ethno linguistic group living in a mountainous eastern region, practiced an ancient polytheistic religion until they converted to Islam in the late 19th century.
Some non-Muslim religious practices survive today as folk customs. There are two active gurdwaras Sikh places of worship in Kabul and 10 in other parts of the country; there were 64 gurdwaras throughout the country before the war.
There are four Hindu mandirs temples in three cities: Eighteen others were destroyed or rendered unusable due to looting during the mujahidin civil war. There is one synagogue, located in Kabul, which is not in use for lack of a Jewish community. There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March.
Chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs, and at the Italian embassy. Some citizens who converted to Christianity as refugees have returned. The Bahai Faith has had followers in the country for approximately years. The community is predominantly based in Kabul, where more than Bahai members live; another reportedly live in other parts of the country. Full and effective enforcement of the constitution was a continued challenge due to its potentially contradictory commitments and the lack of a tradition of judicial review.
The constitution includes a mandate to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and obliges the state to "create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, protection of human dignity, protection of human rights, realization of democracy, and to ensure national unity and equality among all ethnic groups and tribes. This requirement was not explicitly applied to government ministers or members of Parliament, but each of their oaths includes swearing allegiance and obedience to the principles of Islam.
The constitution also declares that Islam is the official "religion of the state," that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," and that "the provisions of adherence to the fundamentals of the sacred religion of Islam and the regime of the Islamic Republic cannot be amended.
The constitution states that when there is no provision in the constitution or other laws that guide ruling on an issue, the courts' decisions shall accord with Hanafi jurisprudence in the way that would serve justice in the best possible manner. The constitution also grants that Shia law would be applied in cases dealing with personal matters where all parties are Shia. There was no separate law applying to non-Muslims. President Karzai signed the first version of law in April Some prominent Shias supported the law for officially recognizing Shia jurisprudence, and some Shia groups hailed the law for officially recognizing the Shiite minority; however, the April law was controversial both domestically and internationally for its failure to protect women's rights, specifically to protect women from marital rape.
Following a mid review of the law, the Ministry of Justice removed some of the controversial articles in the original version; President Karzai signed the amended version in July, which became public law.
Many observers inside and outside the country continued to object to articles in the law that conflicted with women's constitutionally protected rights and international human rights treaties and conventions to which the country was a signatory.
Articles in the law of particular concern included minimum age of marriage, polygamy, inheritance rights, right of self-determination, freedom of movement, sexual obligations, and guardianship.
Conversion from Islam is considered apostasy and is punishable by death under some interpretations of Islamic law in the country. The criminal code does not define apostasy as a crime, and the constitution forbids punishment for any crime not defined in the criminal code; however, the penal code states that egregious crimes, including apostasy, would be punished in accordance with Hanafi religious jurisprudence and handled by an attorney general's office prosecutor.
Converting from Islam to another religion was considered an egregious crime, and fell under Islamic law. Male citizens over age 18 or female citizens over age 16 of sound mind who converted from Islam had three days to recant their conversion or be subject to death by stoning, deprivation of all property and possessions, and the invalidation of their marriage. In recent years neither the national nor local authorities have imposed criminal penalties on converts from Islam.
During the year, according to the Attorney General's Office, no penalties have been imposed, although two men were in detention for conversion to Christianity. Blasphemy is a capital crime under some interpretations of Islamic law in the country, and according to such interpretations, an Islamic judge could punish blasphemy with death, if committed by a male over age 18 or a female over age 16 of sound mind.
Those accused of blasphemy are given three days to recant their actions or face death. In recent years this sentence has not been carried out. It held that all Muslims who converted to the Bahai Faith were apostates and all followers of the Bahai Faith were infidels. Bahais who accepted the Muslim declaration of faith were not expected to be subject to the ruling. The ruling created uncertainties for the country's small Bahai population, particularly on the question of marriages between Bahai women and Muslim men.
Citizens who converted from Islam to the Bahai faith faced risk of persecution, similar to that of Christian converts, in theory, up to and including the death penalty. Also unclear was how the government would treat second generation Bahais who were born into families of Bahai followers.
Although they technically have not converted, some may still view them as having committed blasphemy. The ruling was not expected to affect foreign national Bahais. According to government officials, although the courts consider all citizens to be Muslims by default, in practice non-Muslims can be married as long as they do not publicly acknowledge their non-Muslim beliefs. In addition the judges stated that a Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but the woman must first convert if she was not "of the book," that is not Christian or Jewish.
Moreover, a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim man. The government continued to update the existing criminal and civil legal codes to bring them in line with the country's international treaty obligations. The penal code addresses "Crimes against Religions," although it does not address blasphemous remarks. There is nothing in the penal code related to the spoken or written utterance of insults or profanity against God, religion, sacred symbols, or religious books.
The media law prohibits publicizing and promoting religions other than Islam. Many authorities and most of society viewed proselytizing as contrary to the beliefs of Islam. There were unconfirmed reports of harassment of Christians thought to be involved in proselytizing. Some Christians avoided situations in which they might be viewed as seeking to spread their religion to the larger community. The constitution protects freedom of expression and of the press. The mass media law, which included negative articles with respect to the freedoms of religion and expression, was published in the official gazette in September Also under the media law, the proprietors of newspapers, printers, and electronic media companies must be licensed by and registered with the Ministry of Information and Culture.
The ambiguity surrounding what constitutes offensive material offered the potential for abuse to restrict press freedom and intimidate journalists.
These rules also applied to non-Muslims and foreign-owned media outlets. The amended media law instructs National Radio and Television Afghanistan RTA , the state run media outlet, to provide balanced broadcasting that reflects the culture, language, and religious beliefs of all ethnic groups in the country.