Religious Influences – Culture of Islam

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Religious credentials are highly respected and often determine leadership in villages and towns in this predominately Muslim society.  Local religious leaders are called Mullahs.  Instructions and judgments of religious leaders are based on the word of God as cited in the Qur’an or the practices of Muhammad. Mullahs are often connected to other senior leaders in a vast network throughout the Islamic world. Mullahs can be exceedingly powerful and influence entire regions. Their word is generally considered infallible even when it contradicts fairness and equity.

Culturally, Islam guides most peoples’ lives from birth to death. It influences daily activities in profound ways. Afghans express their religious devotion through their commitment to defend their land and their people. The war against the Soviets was considered a holy war, waged by the Mujahedeen (Holy Warriors), and through it, Islam's political power throughout Afghanistan was increased. With the defeat and expulsion of the Soviets, the customs of tribalism and Islam were restored in place of the secular, communist state imposed by the Soviets.

Foreigners should avoid any form of religious debate with Afghans. They are tolerant of other religions, but they do not stand for criticisms of Islam. An Afghan may ask you to embrace Islam for your salvation out of sympathy and care for you. You can respond by saying that you respect Islam, but prefer your own religion. It would be best to avoid religion as a topic of conversation.

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