No, No, I am not a Taliban 

By Robina Faisal 

[Translated from Urdu by: Javed I. Chaudry] 

No, I am not a Taliban - what a bizarre label that has been imposed on my person. I am not a Mullah or a monk, not even an activist or a hardliner by any stretch of the imagination.  I am, in fact, eager to be identified as a moderate and a modern person. While trying to defend and uphold peace and justice, I am being forced to become defensive against an undesirable label such as the Taliban. I am also being sullied with the titles such as a fundamentalist and an extremist. All that nuisance is taking place because in the eyes of some, I do not meet the currently accepted criteria fit for a modern individual. I am sure most of you are aware of the criteria used now a days to differentiate between modernity and the old fashioned fundamentalism as a vast majority of people meet that requirement and are accepted as the modern folks.   

Apparently, the criteria to get accepted as a modern person is simple: Those who do not raise a voice of protest against the killings of the innocent in the tribal areas or the madrissas by the Pak army or by the American drones are accepted as the modern people. In order to be identified among the modern and the moderates, one cannot afford to sympathize and consider such deaths as a genuine human loss. The modern folks are expected to pretend that those who have died were worst than the animals; they were either the Taliban or about to be turned into the Taliban after training. They are perceived to be a threat to the superior human race living in America. Before the children of the tribal areas could grow into a potential threat for the Americans, its better to nip them in the bud. The modern folks recognize and accept the honorable system that America deploys in order to safeguard their own citizens from the future potential threat. What percentage of the world population needs to be eliminated to make room for the rest is not a decision for you and I, but to accept the process is a mandatory for us or we are liable to be called the fundamentalists, the Taliban supporters and the terrorists.  

In my attempt to look at the other side of the coin, I have earned a title of an extremist. As I give a cursory look at all the people of the world, I see no difference between them and the Americans or the other opulent people. Why then, do we maintain the dual standard? Why are we then so selective in defining the term terrorism? Why only some killers are called the terrorists but others are not? I see no difference between them. All those who take innocent lives are terrorists. Some are doing it in the name of religion, others are doing the same under the pretence of the global peace.  

I do not support the Taliban for the tyranny and oppression that they have demonstrated in the name of religion. I include myself among those who condemn such behavior of the illiterate Taliban who lead an isolated life in the hills, far removed from the temperance of the modern life, still in the stone age in many ways. While we are extremely eager in condemning the Taliban, we are totally overlooking and disregarding the other extremists. In doing so, are we not equally complicit in the crime and do we not have our own hands bloodied with the same misdemeanor? Is this what we consider the moderation? Are the Taliban the only savages who are shedding the blood? Are they the only one’s who are devoid of any sensibilities? Are the civilized, cultured, modern and well educated folks not carrying out exactly the same misdeeds?  

Recently in a German court an Islamophobe German murdered a 31 year old Egyptian pregnant woman in front of her 3 years old child while the woman was attending the court with her husband in connection with an appeal proceedings. The 28 year old German stabbed the women 18 times with a knife. Allegedly the  young man had publically called the women a terrorist because of her hijab. He was fined by the court in 2008 against which the young man had appealed. Is this not extreme savagery? Is this not fanaticism? Is this not an example of groundless hate? Since I want to be identified as a modern individual and anxious to remove the extremist label that has been put on me, I feel obliged to say: No, a white man can never do wrong, he always remains civilized and cannot be a terrorist. Why was this woman wearing a hijab in the first place? And if some one had taunted her she should have accepted it and overlooked it. Why to make a fuss? After all, it was her hijab that was a sign of the terrorism and oppression, certainly not a sign of freedom and liberty!  

As I am anxious to be called a modern individual, I don’t even dare to say: as they are free to reject a hijab, they should also be free to wear one if they choose to do so. Since when the hijab has become a sign of terrorism and oppression and the absence of it a sign of liberty and freedom? The very thought of hijab or viel  may arouse the feelings of oppression in some of us, but we may be creating the same feelings when we forcibly disallow its use.  Those who wish to use, should they not have the freedom to choose what they like? Some feel free without wearing a hijab and there are others who choose to wear one as part of their freedom and self expression. Should it not be one’s personal and private choice? Should people not be free to choose what they like to wear? Just as the Taliban take away the inner self-esteem of women by forcing the veil on them, would it not be an act of similar oppression if the western society would take away the right of wearing a hijab when someone wishes to use one? So what is the difference between the backward and uninformed Taliban and the modern civilized man who has easy access to the libraries and has set up centers of modern research for human development? Is the legal restriction on niqab in France any different from the forced use of the same in Swat? But, I better accept all that inequity quietly and willingly or I could be labeled as an extremist! 

Here I am, I am going overboard trying to support the news media on the Iranian incidence of the young girl’s shooting. It is dreadful. It is shear injustice to have the young girl murdered. Why was she murdered? What was her crime? Ahmad Nasad must be held responsible for this murder. I see her pictures in the western media again and again. Every time I see her picture I shiver with emotions just as I have trembled having seen the pictures of little girls in Swat who lost their lives. But then I wonder as to why the western media is accentuating the incident so much? The young girl’s death may have a political impact of some kind. A human life has been taken - a woman has been killed. It could bring down an arrogant American regime for all I care. I must mourn this death. But, other thoughts are overwhelming my mind. My conscious is taking over my subconscious. All of a sudden, I have this urge to come across as a civilized, educated and a modern intellectual, rather than an extremist. The thought has masked the images of the little Swati boys and girls, old men and women that I had carried in my mind for quite some time. I better let those images disperse and disappear from the depths of my mind. It has to be done – the army action has become necessary - as there is no way to control and subdue the Taliban. I wish there was another way. As I fear for the ordinary people getting hurt for being in the cross fire of the conflict.  

The modern intellectuals appear to be bent upon bombing any and all places where there is the slightest possibility of the presence of the Taliban irrespective of the surroundings and who else may also be there. Being naive, I have been asking people if they would bomb a school when their own child is inside it during a hot pursuit of the Taliban? But not any more – I do not want to ask all those questions – I am more interested to have all those undesirable labels removed from myself.  

A very dear uncle of mine wrote to me from Pakistan about my article on Maddof case. My uncle wrote, “The maddof conviction for defrauding the public money is a testimony to the freedom of the judiciary and unbiased delivery of justice which is an essential element of civilized societies. The government is supposed to be responsible for all the essential public services. But can you shed some light as to why the American courts are unable to provide justice to Dr. Afia in spite of the fact that she has been tortured for so long”? I have nothing to say – I am quiet, I cannot show any dissent – I cannot raise my voice on this matter, or I will be labeled a savage and a backward individual.  She must have done some thing wrong. I am told she used to go around distributing copies of the Quran. Was that necessary to do while she was in USA? She earned a Masters degree in Neuro-Psychology, she belongs to a well educated family that has produced lots of physicians. Was it really necessary for her to join any Muslim organization? She was arrested under the suspicion of terrorism and being a suspect mastermind of Al-Quida. On grounds of these suspicions she was kept in solitary confinement for 5 years. As she was brought out of the solitary confinement, it was discovered that she has lost a kidney, all her teeth and had been repeated raped. Her children are perhaps under 10 years of age. They do not deserve any sympathy either, they cannot be considered innocent, after all, they are the children of a Muslim, Pakistani women allegedly a potential terrorist and possibly an Al-Quida mastermind.  

Mohammad Ahmad, hardly 10 years old, looking nervous and frightened, who knows what has he been through? There was time when his parents debated to decide which country would be better for his up bringing, Pakistan or America. Who knows the conditions under which this child may have spent 5 years in Afghanistan? Our learned intellectuals know it well how they treat the children in Afghanistan. This child, Dr. Afia’s child, being the child of a terrorism suspect,  cannot be considered worthy of any mercy. The suspicious activities of his mother have put all the children of America including those who have not yet born in great danger. Obviously, Dr, Afia’s child and his young siblings cannot be considered fit for a kind treatment.  Of course I do not dare to bring up what kind of hell these children may have gone through and what hardships they may have endured – I would prefer to be called an intellectual rather than an extremist.  

I don’t dare to bring up the case of the British journalist Yvone Ridley who may have committed a similar crime when arrested by the Taliban after she had entered Afghanistan without proper travelling documents while hiding behind a burqa. She was detained by the Taliban for 14 days and did not receive even a scratch.  While in the custody, they used to advise her to lock her room door from the inside at night for her own protection. But how can I admire them and compare them with the civilized Americans? Perhaps there is nothing worth admiring about the Taliban; the savages may have been respectful to her thinking that she belonged to a superior race. Her crime, in their eyes may have been comparable to the crime of Dr. Afia. But what Dr. Afia’s went through in the hands of her civilized captors is totally different. And why would it not be? Dr. Afia belongs to a country, whose president has sold the country for personal gains. On the other hand, Ridley belonged to a superior race, the race that does not sell its soul, but readily buys others’. Naturally, the two examples cannot be compared and considered equal or it could upset the well established uneven cultural imbalance and international disparity. This is the beauty of the global disparity, it preserves some at a higher level in a controlling position while the rest stay at their lowly subjugated place, where they stay subdued for ever. They have been submissive for so long that they no longer have a desire for freedom or equality.