Amid the privation, destruction and austere Islamic edicts of Afghanistan, the capital’s young men have been lining up for hair cuts to look like the heart-throb hero of the film Titanic, actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
The ruling Taliban, intent on creating the world's purest Islamic state and contemptuous of almost everything from the West, are not amused.
The religious police, who enforce an interpretation of Islam that includes a ban on shaving, have detained dozens of barbers for trimming the hair of the capital's youth in the Titanic style, witnesses said.
"We don't know for sure the precise number of the arrested people, but reportedly they exceed 30 and have been in the jail for over a week now for giving a Titanic hairstyle," said one barber, who declined to be identified.
The Titanic hairstyle leaves the fringe untrimmed and the back shortly cropped in emulation of DiCaprio.
"The religious police have warned us against the use of Titanic and other Western hair fashions," another barber said.
Three years after its release, the worldwide craze for the romantic blockbuster about the ocean liner that sank in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg has finally swept into Kabul despite a Taliban ban on music, cinema and television.
The epic tale of love and disaster has captivated Afghans, who are seeking an escape from their own disaster — a Russian invasion in 1979 followed by civil war that has dragged on inconclusively for more than a decade.
A Merchant’s Best Friend
The Titanic name is attached to anything an Afghan merchant can sell: cosmetics, clothes, footwear, wedding cakes and vehicles.
Officials of the Taliban religious police, formally known as the Ministry of Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, declined to comment about the recent arrests, merely insisting that Afghans must not mimic Western ways.
The ministry acts directly under the order of the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, an ascetic one-eyed religious figure who has never been photographed because pictures also are banned.
The regime, which seized Kabul in 1996 and now rules more than 90 percent of Afghanistan, has faced severe criticism from the West and also many Islamic countries.
Its harsh policies include banning women from education and most work. Women must wear an all-enveloping burqa whenever they venture outside their homes.
Mobile teams of religious police punish men found wearing Western clothes. They also stop them to check if they have broken the ban on trimming beards — and to ensure they are not trying to look like a Hollywood leading man.