When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, Maulvi Qalamuddin headed the Committee to Protect Virtue and Prevent Vice, the religious police that shut down girls’ schools, beat up men with insufficiently long beards and arrested those in possession of music or video tapes.

Nowadays, the 60-year-old Taliban cleric is on a different mission: He is overseeing a network of schools that teach reading, writing and math to thousands of girls in his home province of Logar, an insurgent hotbed just south of Kabul.

“Education for women is just as necessary as education for men,” Qalamuddin thunders. “In Islam, men and women have the same duty to pray, to fast — and to seek learning.”

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