Afghanistan's Taliban regime mulls ban on boxing
KABUL, Oct 22 (AFP) - New sports minister Mawlawi Qalamuddin of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has said he was considering a ban on boxing, arguing it could cause mental and physical troubles for athletes later in life.
Mawlawi Qalamuddin, once head of the ruling Taliban department for fostering virute and preventing vice, better known as religious police, also said he intended to retrain the athletes according to religious norms.
"If we find out its (boxing's) professional, religious and physical harms, it is likely that we may ban it," Qalamuddin told reporters Saturday at the bullet-scarred Kabul sports stadium.
Ironically, he had to make himself heard above the cheers of hundreds of spectators watching a boxing match.
"Punching to the face is contrary to human dignity," he said, adding the athletes had been ordered to avoid it.
"The young athletes might not know now, but in future they could suffer from mental and tooth problems and possibly lose their sight. If they do not avoid these, boxing is likely to be banned."
Blows to the face could damage one's brains, Qalamuddin said.
The Taliban sports authorities are examining the harm done by boxing in professional, religious and medical terms, he said.
As he spoke, hundreds of Kabul residents had gathered at the dusty stadium. Some youngmen had climbed up broken power pylons to watch the boxing match.
Sports coaches said it would be difficult to have totally different boxing rules in Afghanistan indepedent of those followed in the rest of the world. "Like other sports, boxing has also got its international regulations," a coach said requesting anonimity.
But other coaches disagreed, with one saying: "Mind you everything is possible in Afghanistan." He referred to the unique regulations the Taliban regime has already imposed on sports.
Athletes, including boxers, have to grow untrimmed beards, put on long pants and stop matches at prayer time. Sports are out of bounds for women.
Qalamuddin, whose former department had initiated these rules, accused the previous sports minister, Abdul Shokour Mutmane, of being "slack" in allowing the althletes to show their thighs in football matches.
He said religious teachers would be employed for clubs henceforth.
"Players have to be covered from lower belly down to the knees," he said, adding it was not permissible to expose thighs.
Qalamuddin said boxers had been told they could take part in competitions only after passing a religious test.
"This has not taken place yet. But we have told them this so that they are compelled to work for excelling both in sports and in religion," he said.
A volleyball fan in the past, the sports minister said he did not care whether or not his new job was interesting for him.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) barred Afghanistan from Sydney games this year on grounds that the Taliban regime was not recognized by the United Nations.
The minister said this was because of super powers' meddling and urged the IOC to be rid of US influence.
Calling for restoring Afghanistan's suspended membership, Qalamuddin appealed to the IOC to give the war-ravaged country aid to rebuild its sports facilities.
On sports for women, he said every country had its own rules and regulations and the IOC should not punish the Afghan male athletes because of the ban on women's participation in sports.
"They should never invite us, nor do we want them to invite us, when there are women's contests," he said.
Any concession on this would be tantamount to betraying Islam, he said.
"If we give up this (Quran), people will think we are mad. We cannot trample upon our 20 years of struggle nor can we ignore our religion," he said.
Traditionally, only in Kabul and in a few other cities, have women ever been allowed to take part in sports.
Last week, the Taliban ordered private clubs to hold their sports programmes from sunrise until afternoon prayers so that athletes could make time for prayers.
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