Taliban outlaw leather jackets

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THEY HAVE banned television, video cassette recorders, cameras, chess, homing pigeons, fighting partridges, short beards and long hair (for men). They have outlawed brown paper bags (in case they were manufactured from pages from the Koran), white socks for women, and all musical instruments except the tambourine.

But the Afghan Taliban militia induced new depths of gloom and bafflement among their beleaguered subjects this week when they sought to bully the young men of Kabul into discarding their leather jackets. In northern and central districts of Kabul yesterday they stopped young men wearing leather jackets, tore them off and slashed them with knives before throwing them into the street. They warned that leather coats were prohibited by Islam.

The initiative sent prices of leather jackets in the Afghan capital's markets tumbling from 1.6 million Afghanis (pounds 23) to 1.2 million Afghanis.

A despondent Afghan in Kabul lamented: "They will be ordering us to throw away our shoes next."

Leather jackets are perceived as a powerful symbol of Westernisation. Perhaps the young Taliban, whose notion of chic consists of layers of flowing cotton, simply felt intimidated by the city's youth, and took steps to put it right.