Archive for March, 2006

Crossing the Divide

A recent encounter on the current standoff between the Muslim world and West with a friend on the blogosphere led us to the question: How can we cross that divide and find a common ground in the middle where we can move forward in peace?” In this series of my writings, I shall attempt to address the question and offer my views on the matter.

As it is indeed a complicated matter, I have chosen to tackle the topic in several parts, the first of which is presented here: (Subsequent parts to appear in due course).

Using the Media More Astutely

Compare these: “The Koran flushed down the toilet”; “Muslim inmates tortured in Guantanemo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram”; “Pupils ordered to remove headscarf”; “Muslims scorned after 9/11”; “Civilians targeted by US troops”.

To these: “Man to be executed for conversion to Christianity”; “KFC franchise looted, burnt in response to cartoon blasphemy”; “Muslim guerillas responsible for attack on US troops”; “Osama and Muslim cohorts kill civilians”.

A Muslim would think, “Heck, the Infidels are running roughshod.” He then woud cast a glance at the situation in Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina—all involving his “Muslims brothers”—all being “meddled with” by the “West”. He is disappointed at the state of the Ummah. Then, at the Friday sermon, he hears of the “grandeur” of his “forefathers”—the glorious days of Islam when Saladin, in an act of pure gentlemanliness, lent a steed to King Richard during the Crusades; when the Jews, Christians and Hindus lived peacefully under their reign in Medina, Cordoba and Delhi; when they were discovering algebra and inductive reasoning and exploring the heavens while the Christians were waiting for Luther’s advent. The contrast baffles him. He then says, “Something has to be done”.

He looks up at his government for reciprocity. He finds that it is peacefully submitting to the will of the US, not that of Allah: It is letting the US to use his land for launching offensives against his Muslim brothers in Afghanistan.

Then, on TV he sees the picture of a modestly dressed man holding a rosary, praising Allah, eulogizing the Prophet and vowing to make the West pay for what they are doing. A flare of hope! He is delighted. He joins them to become a “terrorist”.

At this, an American thinks, “Darn! I’m ‘onna vote for Bush, Jr. He’s so good at crushing terrorism. Those wife-beating rapists sure need a lesson.” Consequently, Bush and the likes of him get second terms. They pursue their “anti-terrorism” pursuits. The Congress approves trillions in defense and anti-terrorism expenditures. Bombs are made and dropped on marriage ceremonies in Baghdad—“inadvertently”. Special Forces members kill inmates at Bagram during torture. Countries are sanctioned and told to comply and do more for the “global war against terrorism”.

All of these are covered by the media. Another Muslim hears of it. He is again disillusioned by his government. He joins either Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah and becomes a terrorist. Then comes election time. Votes are cast. The likes of Bush win again. The cycle is repeated.
While these two situations are too general, they do give a good picture of what the media can make go through the minds of the people.

More than anything else, today, the stereotypes of the East in the eyes of the West and vice versa are responsible for the wrong going on. And the media is responsible for creating these stereotypes.

If all a man in the UKsaw on TV were atrocities committed by Bin Laden and gang, how would he think of the East? And, on the contrary, if all a Muslim heard in the news were reports about the Koran being flushed down the toilet by American soldiers, how would he think of the West? Certainly, not very positively.

The media is a very powerful tool, and, like the WMDs, if not used responsibly, it can yield undesired and deleterious consequences. Its maladministration has already inflicted a good deal of harm, but the damage isn’t beyond repair as yet. We must break the matrix of "necessary illusions".We must learn to convey the complete picture instead of delivering half-truths.

Accordingly, the Muslim countries need to slacken their tight grip at media censorship. Also, the likes of CBS, ITN, CNN, Al-Jazeera and BBC must give due attention to covering all aspects of a story instead of covering all of the “catchy” aspects of a story.

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Karzai—between the Devil and the Deep Sea—but Things Aren’t As Tough

Karzai

Yes—between the devil and the deep see is where the Afghan government has found itself in the pretext of the Afghan Christian convert case. On one side, there are the democratic values and ideals of personal freedom while on the other side there are a bunch of “cynic fundamentalists” and more dangerously, Islam. The charactarification is yours. Go ahead, tell me, who is the devil and who is the deep sea?

As it is echoed throughout the realm of the Media Men, Karzai is in a “tough” position trying to balance the act between pleasing his patrons in Washington and coming clean of all—well, almost all—allegations of heathenism in his own country. While I admit it is hard times for him, but I also have to admit that it is not as difficult as portrayed. Apart from the choices he has, some of which have been discussed by my friend in his weblog, I believe Karzai has another choice, which he is very likely to choose: The choice of using his own gang of mullahs for his rescue.

Like the European rulers in the middle ages, the Muslim rulers have also reaped full benefits of the “union of the Church and State” phenomenon. They have, whenever confronted with a similar “moral” or “religious” dilemma, boldly used the “fatwa” or religious edict from their private gang of mullahs to solve everything in—indeed—a very moral and religious way.

Countless instances of these initiatives exist in the old as well as contemporary Muslim History. From the Saudi kings to the Persian Ayatollahs and to the Pakistani dictators, all have taken full mileage of this golden principle. All of them have been and are using the same old tactic of paganizing their adversaries through their state-sponsored mullahs to oust them from the political scene.

Luckily, for Karzai, Afghanistan abounds with mullahs who were Taliban sympathizers until the end of 2001, but who changed paradigms to sympathize with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as soon as the Taliban were ousted. And yet again, it is very likely that they will sympathize with Karzai in issuing a religious edict (fatwa) in favor of the Convert, Abdul Rahman. But like all favors, these divinely ordained favors too don’t come for free: Karzai will have to heavily grease their palms.

Image

Very soon, we may witness a turban-headed, meter-bearded, scholarly-looking elderly man appearing on TV to declare the edict on behalf of the “Council of the Ulama* of Afghanistan”. And just to add that final touch of perfection, a man, in white overalls, with a stethoscope hanging down his neck, might announce the “results” of the “medical examinations conducted on the convict” deeming him “unfit” to stand trial.There, you have it…Abdul the Convert freed; the raging temper of the Afghans quelled and Karzai relieved. Yes, there would be small pockets of resistance, but then again, if they aren’t there, who should believe that all this was real and not staged?


Footnotes:*Ulama, plural of the Arabic word, Aalim, meaning learned, wise

Pictures from Afghanistan

Pictures from Afghanistan--Traffic Problem in Mazar-i-Sharif

I have uploaded three new picture sets from Afghanistan:

  • Afghanistan Pictures–General: Pictures from Afghanistan depicting the everyday lives of the people, reconstruction and economic activity in the country. See pictures here.
  • Photos from Kabul, the Afghan Capital: Pictures from Kabul depicting prosperity, commercialization and the lives of the common Afghans. See pictures here.
  • The Salang Tunnel: Pictures from the Salang Tunnel, which connects the North to the rest of Afghanistan. The Salang Tunnel is on the Hindukush Mountain, standing more than 11,000 feet above sea level. It was built by the Soviet Russia in 1980s to facilitate movement of military convoys. See pictures here.

A Shave and They’re in–Overnight!

This is an article I had written in 2005, just before the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. The article critiques President Karzai’s decision to include the Taliban in the democratic process.


When the Taliban government was just toppled, president Karzai offered the ‘moderate’ Taliban an amnesty opportunity saying that those reputed as ‘less fundamental’ would be inducted into the democratic process. This ‘amnesty program’ was in spite of the fact that for most Afghans, a Taliban is simply a Taliban; there is no difference between the less and more fundamentalist ones.

This offer is, apparently, an effort to discourage the increasing fears of guerilla warfare from the Taliban. Weeks have passed now and there is no decline in the Taliban’s destructive activism meaning the incentives are of no use. Bomb blasts, target killings, public intimidations, abduction and subsequent execution of aid workers and journalists etc not only continued, but also intensified.

More importantly, this offer provided the Taliban a morale boost instead. The Taliban spokesman, Mufti Lotfullah Hakimi, in an interview with NewsWeek said, “Mullah Omar has never been more active…anyone who thinks he’s isolated, hiding in a cave and fearing for his life couldn’t be more wrong.[1]”

The Taliban continue their activities with signs of renewed fervor establishing a radio station; strengthening their smuggling network against efforts of smuggling eradication; manipulating public sentiments to their purposes, etc. Hence, a begging Karzai who repeatedly asks for more troops from the international community[2].

Baffling, though, is Karzai’s contradictory press statements. After October’s first-ever ‘democratic’ elections, the world witnessed him saying, “…the Taliban don’t have a place among the people.[3]” But it seems that the Taliban do have a place, if not among the people; as, president Karzai, despite his blues, seems to be more than determined to reintegrate them into the political process. He has reassured them that the moderates, along with the extremists would not only be granted amnesty, but would also be allowed to come into the political process, simply because they are his ‘Afghan brothers’[4].

That’s a real bargain, and making use of it are five of Karzai’s hardcore ex-Taliban ‘Afghan brothers’ who have vowed they would participate in the coming parliamentary elections. Some of them already occupy government posts.[5] Thanks to Karzai’s fraternal attitude.

The Afghans have not yet forgotten the notorious days of Taliban rule and they are not ready to forgive them just as yet. They don’t want their first go at parliamentary elections in the 86 years of their independence to be a battle to keep their worst nightmare—the Taliban—out of the political frame. Hence, Karzai’s pro-Taliban policy seems to have no public support at all and he has, seemingly, miscalculated things. His reintegration efforts have become show-through and showing through the niches, are his pro-Pashtoon policies.

Public support, however, is of mere significance. And as far as their entry in the parliament is concerned, come election time, all the Taliban members need is a shave and they’re in—overnight; President Karzai guarantees it!


Some of Talibans’ Atrocities:

Background information about the Taliban and Afghanistan:


References: [1]  Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau, Last Days of the Taliban?

Preface/Prelude/Epilogue/Welcome Note/whatever you call it

Welcome to MyScribbles. This is the place where I scribble about some current affairs issues of interest about Islam, terrorism, freedom of speech, etc. I am a journalism and writing enthusiast and I use this as a platform to publish my thoughts to the world. (Read more about me here)

MyScribbles, in addition to the regular weblog articles, also has special articles about a number of specific topics. Currently, it has reports about Afghanistan. This section will grow as I update MyScribbles, adding new sections and articles.

Thanks for visiting MyScribbles. Keep coming back.


Welcome!

I no longer update this weblog due to academic and other preoccupations. However, feel free to browse through its older entries. Thanks.
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This is a weblog where a journalism enthusiast Afghan student writes about hot contemporary issues from an Afghan perspective. Enjoy your visit! Contact: mail . myscribbles @ gmail . com

Pictures from Afghanistan

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