K A B U L, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2001 -- 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 purestIslamic state and contemptuous of almost everything from the West, are not amused.
The religious police, who enforce an interpretation ofIslam 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 arrestedpeople, 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 andthe back shortly cropped in emulation of DiCaprio.
"The religious police have warned us against the use ofTitanic and other Western hair fashions," another barbersaid.
Three years after its release, the worldwide craze for theromantic blockbuster about the ocean liner that sank in theNorth 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 merchantcan sell: cosmetics, clothes, footwear, wedding cakes andvehicles.
Officials of the Taliban religious police, formally knownas 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 Talibansupreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, an ascetic one-eyedreligious figure who has never been photographed becausepictures also are banned.
The regime, which seized Kabul in 1996 and now rules morethan 90 percent of Afghanistan, has faced severe criticism from the West and also many Islamic countries.
Its harsh policies include banning women from education andmost work. Women must wear an all-enveloping burqa whenever they venture outside their homes.
Mobile teams of religious police punish men found wearingWestern clothes. They also stop them to check if they havebroken the ban on trimming beards — and to ensure they are not trying to look like a Hollywood leading man.