Taliban Leader Says Music Will Be Banned in Public Again in Afghanistan

A Taliban leader appeared to confirm on Wednesday that music in public will once again be banned in Afghanistan following the group's rapid takeover of the country in recent weeks.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, gave an interview to The New York Times where he discussed how the Islamic group intended to run the country and sought to downplay concerns about the treatment of women and reprisals against those who worked with U.S. forces.

He also addressed the issue of music in public, which was banned during the Taliban's previous stint in power between 1996 and 2001, suggesting it will soon be prohibited.

"Music is forbidden in Islam," Mujahid said.

"But we're hoping that we can persuade people not to do such things, instead of pressuring them," he said.

Mujahid is seen as a likely candidate for minister for information and culture.

When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996, they banned almost all music, considering it sinful.

Cassette tapes were destroyed and strung up on trees, according to The Associated Press.

An exception was made for some vocal religious pieces, however. Afghan radio and TV stations have been playing only Islamic songs amid the Taliban takeover of the country.

It is not clear whether the change was ordered by the Taliban or whether the stations made the decision in an effort to avoid potential conflict with the new regime.

Afghan ethnomusicologist Ahmad Sarmast, founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, addressed the Taliban's attitude to music in comments to Forbes in December 2020, suggesting it had little to do with Islam.

"It's a totally uneducated, narrow, and almost illiterate people who are misinterpreting Islamic ideology," Sarmast said. "There is nothing explicitly written against music in the Holy Quran."

The Taliban's position on music is based upon a hadith—a report of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad—that says "those who listen to music and songs in this world, on the Day of Judgment molten lead will be poured into their ears."

However, this hadith is not universally accepted as being authentic.

Mujahid also addressed questions about the treatment of women in his interview on Wednesday, suggesting Afghan women will be able to resume their normal lives. He also dismissed the idea that women would need to be accompanied by a male guardian— called a mahram—whenever they leave the house. This would only apply for journeys of three days or more.

"If they go to school, the office, university, or the hospital, they don't need a mahram," Mujahid said.

He also denied reports that the Taliban was seeking out interpreters and other Afghans who had helped U.S. forces, saying they would be safe in Afghanistan and criticized evacuations from the country that "take out our human resources."

Zabihullah Mujahid Attends a Press Conference
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid looks on during a press conference in Kabul on August 24, 2021 after the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan. Mujahid has confirmed that music will not be permitted in public. HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP/Getty Images