Tuesday, 15 April 2008

"Harper-hu Akbar!"

Every week, it seems, the soil of Afghanistan is newly drenched with the blood of yet another gallant Canadian. Meanwhile, as our armchair warriors and sunshine patriots bravely blow their tocsins (from thousands of miles behind the lines) in support of our dogged defence of Hamid Karzai's Sharia-Law-driven Islamic fundamentalist regime, every day seems to drag this mission closer to the realms of grotesque absurdity.

I had thought it bad enough that Karzai's feudal "government" is worm-eaten with ex-Taliban and ex-Soviet-collaborationist thugs like Ismail Khan who lord it over their subjects with casual brutality.

I had thought it bad enough that Afghanistan's constitution mandates that journalists be sentenced to death for "blasphemy" and that anyone be sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.

I had thought it bad enough that (as pro-democracy groups on the ground are desperately trying to tell us) women are still bereft of the most basic human rights and may, in fact, be worse off than they were under the Taliban.

I had thought it bad enough that Afghanistan has, since the invasion, gained the distinction of supplying 93% of the world's heroin, thus becoming essentially an intercontinental weapon of mass destruction.

Well, it just got worse. Now we learn that Canada is considering funding the construction of a network of madrassas--academies of Islamist indoctrination--as part of our sixty-million-dollar commitment to help "reconstruct" the Afghan education system ("reconstruct" being government double-speak for "build from scratch", naturally). Madrassas, as you surely know, are the hives of hatred that routinely produce bitter harvests of Islamic extremism in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Now, this proposal is not being made by some low-level functionary still recovering from a lost weekend in Bangkok. On the contrary; the article states:

Canadian officials on the ground - both civilian and military - have been quietly pushing Ottawa over the last year to encourage the development of moderate madrassas as long-term strategy to fight extremism.

Ah, so we're not to worry, because our madrassas will be "moderate" ones. Presumably, Canadian personnel will be attached to each school in perpetuity to ensure the "moderate" credentials of its staff. Perhaps we needn't do even that much. After all, oversight seems hardly necessary in a land like Afghanistan, where things have always worked out nicely on their own.

We are told that the madrassas shall teach the "moderate" Hanafi version of Sharia Law rather than the more militant Wahhabi (the norm in Saudi Arabia). The article explains that Hanafi is a "less fundamentalist form of Islam".

Splendid. So Hanafi students will be less fundamentalist than the Wahhabi-inspired 9/11 hijackers. Could we expect them to fly just one plane into a building instead of two? Would they give an adulterous woman sixty lashes instead of ninety?

We fail to find reasons to consider Hanafi as moderate as these claims suggest. We note that Abdul Rahman, the would-be Christian, was sentenced to die according to specifically Hanafi principles, which mandate the death penalty for "apostasy" from Islam.

Worse, Deobandi, a popular form of Hanafi, has become the faith of the Taliban (yes, the Taliban--the bad guys). Worse still, Deobandi imams are so eager to issue fatwas that they've been accused of doing it for cash, stirring an horrifically fascinating stew of avarice and barbarism.

So let us review, shall we? Not content with disgorging Canadian blood and treasure in the service of a medieval, corrupt, thug-infested regime of poppy-mongers, we've now decided to underwrite the establishment of the kinds of "schools" that are known to incubate precisely the fanaticism that has been killing our soldiers for the past five years.

That this post cannot fit comfortably on a fridge magnet or a bumper sticker, I admit. I would nevertheless suggest that it deserves as much serious and respectful consideration--and perhaps more--as would yet another fatuous iteration of a "Support-Our-Troops" or "We-Don't-Cut-And-Run" cliché.

6 comments:

Ti-Guy said...

At this point, I'm just praying for a huge catastrophe to dispel, at least for a generation, the myths about what it takes to establish democracy elsewhere and how it will not (and should not) end up looking like suburban Ottawa in most of the World.

NATO is not going to win this. Until the regional powers (Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and India) are required to deal with the instability in their midst themselves, this will go nowhere.

Aeneas the Younger said...

TG wrote:

"NATO is not going to win this. Until the regional powers (Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan and India) are required to deal with the instability in their midst themselves, this will go nowhere."

You are perhaps correct in this analysis. As you both know, I am a supporter of the Afghan Operation - but not without reservation.

I do not support the idea of building a Western-style democracy in Afghanistan - because it is not feasible, or even possible.

I support the Operation if the goal is to bring some recognisable form of stability.

You are correct in that the regional powers need to deal with this broken state; the problem is, they are all extremely reluctant to do so. They do not wish to have the problems of Afghanistan exported to their countries.

So, who is to act? NATO did, and I for one am bloody satisfied that they did. However, that intervention is not a permanent solution. But it just may turn out to be the permanent solution - by default.

The UN should be the one to act in such matters, but, for reasons we all know, they do not act.

On a related note, I see the General Hillier posted his resignation today ...

Ti-Guy said...

So, who is to act? NATO did, and I for one am bloody satisfied that they did.

Satisfied how? That we've eliminated the possibility of state-abetted terrorism from ever taking root there again?

NATO is a defense treaty that has been co-opted to be an instrument of Imperial aggression/machinations (which led to the rise of the Taliban in the first place), and no amount of good intentions is going to prevent the consequences we all know are going to arise from that...particularly in a neighbourhood where the populations just aren't all that keen about the West no matter how much we'd like them to be.

Talk to the average Iranian, Russian, Pakistani, Indian or Chinese; they're mostly indifferent about our lofty values and they have long histories and ancient cultures that make ours look adolescent in comparison; just the impression of superiority causes them to bristle. As it should. I don't take kindly to newcomers to Canada passing value judgments on our history, culture, our laws and our way of life. Thankfully, that rarely happens; usually, it's the unbridled enthusiasm that I find a little misplaced.

The roots of hostility run deep in all the regional powers and what drives the instability in Afghanistan is a function of that.

China and India are rising World powers with nuclear capability and economic might and it's not unreasonable to start thinking that with that power comes responsibility. We can help, if they need it, but in the end, it's a World away.

Aeneas the Younger said...

"Satisfied how? That we've eliminated the possibility of state-abetted terrorism from ever taking root there again?"

No - satisfied that they acted and have quelled that sad land as a current base of Operations for Al Qaeda.

Dylan said...

"No - satisfied that they acted and have quelled that sad land as a current base of Operations for Al Qaeda."

I am a firm believer that Al Qaeda is merely a small cog in the huge machine of Afghanistan's drug warlord and Islamic sectarianism war for control over the population.

Unfortunately, Islam is the religion of Afghanistan - whether or not it is Karzai or bin Laden in charge. And, as a presence in Afghanistan, we have to cooperate and assist with the "moderatization" of Islam in the region. However, we're up against the very powerful influence of radicals in Iran and Pakistan.

Like Ti-Guy said, it will take the regional powers stepping up and helping NATO and the Afghan population deconstruct some of the religious, political, and cultural barriers to democracy. Patriarchy is the biggest barrier to overcome, which is so deeply integrated with religious, political and economic life in Afghanistan that I'm not so sure that women will ever be "free" in the North American sense of the word.

The bottom line: a moderate Islam in the Canadian/American sense will probably not be the norm in Afghanistan. Sharia law will rule the land and women will be constantly sent to prison for running away from their forced marriages, being raped (a charge laid against women in the form of infidelity or promiscuity), and other sexual "crimes".

I think the best situation we can hope for in the West is an Afghanistan the resembles Turkey. If the Canadian government (LPC or CPC) thinks that this is something that we can do by setting up moderate madrassas then we're fooling ourselves. We need, first, to set up a public - yet religiously based - national school system that both boys and girls are given equal access too.

Odd how some will fight tooth and nail against government funding of Canadian private religious schools, yet we're enabling them overseas... hmmm...

Sir Francis said...

Dylan:

I think the best situation we can hope for in the West is an Afghanistan the resembles Turkey.

Sadly, what we're setting up is a nation that resembles Saudi Arabia.