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The Taliban initially enjoyed goodwill from Afghans weary of the warlords' corruption, brutality, and incessant fighting.[109] However, this popularity was not universal, particularly among non-Pashtuns.

The Taliban's extremely strict and anti-modern ideology has been described as an "innovative form of sharia combining Pashtun tribal codes,"[110] or Pashtunwali, with radical Deobandi interpretations of Islam favored by JUI and its splinter groups. Also contributing to the mix was the jihadism and pan-Islamism of Osama bin Laden.[111] Their ideology was a departure from the Islamism of the anti-Soviet mujahideen rulers they replaced who tended to be mystical Sufis, traditionalists, or radical Islamicists inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan).[112]

Under the Taliban regime, Sharia law was interpreted to forbid a wide variety of previously lawful activities in Afghanistan. One Taliban list of prohibitions included:

They also prohibited employment, education, and sports for women, dancing, clapping during sports events, kite flying, and depictions of living things, whether drawings, paintings, photographs, stuffed animals, or dolls. Men were required to have a beard longer than a fist placed at the base of the chin. Conversely, they had to wear their head hair short. Men were also required to wear a head covering.[114]

Many of these activities were hitherto lawful in Afghanistan. Critics complained that most Afghans followed a different, less strict, and less intrusive interpretation of Islam. The Taliban did not eschew all traditional popular practices. For example, they did not destroy the graves of Sufi pirs (holy men), and emphasized dreams as a means of revelation.[115]

Punishment was severe. Theft was punished by the amputation of a hand, rape and murder by public execution, and married adulterers were stoned to death. In Kabul, punishments including executions were carried out in front of crowds in the city's soccer stadium.[116] Rules were issued by the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Suppression of Vice (PVSV), and enforced by its "religious police", importing that Wahhabi concept.

Taliban have been described as both anti-nationalist and Pushtun nationalist. According to journalist Ahmed Rashid, at least in the first years of their rule, they adopted Deobandi and Islamist anti-nationalist beliefs, and opposed "tribal and feudal structures," eliminating traditional tribal or feudal leaders from leadership roles.[117] According to Ali A. Jalali and Lester Grau, the Taliban "received extensive support from Pashtuns across the country who thought that the movement might restore their national dominance. Even Pashtun intellectuals in the West, who differed with the Taliban on many issues, expressed support for the movement on purely ethnic grounds."[118]

Like Wahhabi and other Deobandis, the Taliban do not consider Shiʻi to be Muslims. The Taliban also declared the Hazara ethnic group, which totaled almost 10% of Afghanistan's population, "not Muslims."[119]

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