Sign Language and the Taliban

Judy A. Kegl kegl at MAINE.RR.COM
Sun Mar 30 17:47:39 UTC 2003

I was websurfing this morning and came across an article describing the
efforts of teachers trying to teach a sign language to deaf children in
Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban.  The teachers wanted to create
a sign language manual with diagrams.  The Taliban government prohibited
this on the grounds that such depictions constituted human images, which
were forbidden.  (The teachers prepared the manual anyway, but clandestinely
and, no doubt, at great risk.)

It occurs to me that the entire issue could have been avoided by using
SignWriting, which is not a picture system at all, but a writing code.

While the Taliban is fast being relegated to history, the issue on religious
grounds presumably remains for many Moslems around the world.  I submit that
a very compelling case can be made that SignWriting is an orthographic
system, and therefore does not violate any religious prohibitions.

-- James Shepard-Kegl

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