An imam in the western province of Herat has installed billboards around Herat city to encourage women to wear the hijab--a headscarf--and has allegedly instructed his followers to punish women who refrain. Rights activists say this is an “extremist” and “misogynist” move.
Along with billboards, Mujeeb Rahman Ansari, the imam of Gazargah Mosque in the city of Herat, has told his supporters to apply Sharia rule--to punish-- women who are not using the "proper" hijab, as determined by him and his followers. He has asked his supporters "not to wait for the government’s action in such instances," according to his public speeches.
By this, some residents said, the religious scholar is overstepping the law in Herat.
Ansari has recently named the cultural component of Gazargah Mosque as the central office of Amr Ba Maroof Wa Naih Az Munkar, which literally means "commanding the good and forbidding wrong," as a social organization that basically pushes his conservative agenda.
“This country has sovereignty--it has law. Any religious scholar who is concerned about the social situation--it should be addressed by the government,” civil society activist Hamid Momin said.
“This approach can have negative impacts on civic movements,” said Behnaz Jahind, a human rights activist.
Herat residents say Ansari’s speeches are “concerning,” and in some cases are a “violation of the rule of law.”
“This is the result of personal interests,” Herat resident Sima Qatali said.
“Raising such issues reveals a type of religious extremism,” activist Jawad Hamid said.
Some social media users claimed that Ansari is a de facto authority in the north of Herat, where he has supporters who are attempting to implement his orders.
But the provincial Directorate of Hajj and Religious Affairs said the campaign by Ansari has not been conducted in collaboration with this office, and that Ansari's teachings go against Islam.
“Speeches by Mr. Mujeeb Rahman Ansari are in contravention of the religious teachings. Islam has always insisted on preaching,” an official of the directorate, Fazl Mohammad Hussaini said.
TOLOnews could not get Ansari’s view on this report. Ansari completed his higher education in Saudi Arabia. He is the head of a local radio channel, Radio Ansar, in Herat, through which he airs his speeches regularly.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story quoted Amr Ba Maroof Wa Naih Az Munkar as meaning "enjoying the good and forbidding wrong," instead of the correct version: "commanding the good and forbidding wrong.")