Afghanistan Shia Ulema Council
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Afghanistan Shia Ulema Council :
The Ulema Council is a group of influential Sunni and Shia scholars, imams, and Muslim jurists from across the country in Afghanistan reflecting the network of provincial ulema councils. Its senior members met regularly with the president and advised him on Islamic moral, ethical, and legal problems. The council was nominally independent of the government, but its members received financial support from the state. Through contacts with the presidential palace, the parliament, and ministries, the council or its members advised on the formulation of new legislation or the implementation of existing law. Although it was well represented in provincial capitals, the council had much less outreach in villages and rural areas.
In 2007 the Ulema Council called for limits to freedom of expression and press. The Council urged individuals to avoid conduct that may be perceived as insulting to local traditions and religious values on the grounds that "safeguarding our national honors and Islamic values is the obligation of every citizen." This declaration mirrors article 1 of the constitution, enforced in high-profile cases such as the 2007 case of Parvez Kambakhsh, sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for distributing material from the Internet questioning the condition of women in Islam. President Karzai pardoned Kambakhsh in August 2009. Many citizens, including the upper house of the parliament, condemned the pardon, which the international community strongly supported.
The U.S. government estimates the total population at 31.8 million (July 2014 estimate). Sunni Muslims comprise 80 percent of the population and Shia Muslims make up about 19 percent of the population. The Shia population includes Ismailis and a majority of ethnic Hazaras. Other religious groups comprise the remaining 1 percent. Sikh and Hindu leaders estimate there are 600 Sikh and Hindu families totaling 3,000 individuals. A Sikh leader stated that 700 Sikh and Hindu individuals emigrated during the year to Europe and elsewhere. Reliable estimates of the Bahai and Christian communities are harder to make, because neither group practices openly. There are small numbers of practitioners of other religions, including one Jew.
The Hazaras live predominantly in the central and western provinces, and the Ismailis live mainly in Kabul and in the central and northern provinces. Followers of the Bahai Faith, who have practiced in the country for approximately 150 years, are predominantly based in Kabul, with a small population in Kandahar.