Sadly, violence in the name of religion is not new. If the Crusaders had had weapons of mass destruction, would they have used them? I don’t doubt that they would have. While religions do not have a corner on violence, violence has sometimes been justified by religious leaders. Is it any wonder that there are people who reject religion outright? I am sometimes challenged by young people who say they have no faith affiliation. They are quite clear–for them, more important than any religious group’s words or dogma are their actions.
No religion is exempt from the criticism about violence. What distinctions can we make between the Christian slave ships that took Africans into slavery in the New World and the current talks between Taliban officials and the Karzai government of Afghanistan about women’s rights? The only difference is the time and the specific population whose lives are being determined by force. If these talks go unchallenged, more women in Afghanistan will die. It looks like this will happen before our eyes, if we watch, or behind our backs, if we turn away.
In early October, Jennifer Rowell, head of policy and advocacy for Care International in Afghanistan, expressed alarm in The Washington Post, stating that “The greatest concern is the policy of reconciliation and reintegration (of militants) … In the reconciliation process, women’s rights are a card on the table … I’m afraid they will be the first thing to be sacrificed in the negotiations…” It sounds like the negotiation and reconciliation of men who disagree will be made on the backs and heads and hearts of women.
These secret negotiations are happening now. It looks like the rights and safety of Afghan women will be sacrificed. We are talking about truly basic human rights: things like the right to mobility, the right to medical treatment, and the right to education. Time magazine did a photo essay and article about the plight of Afghan women in its July 29, 2010 edition.
In her book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East, Islamic writer Isobel Coleman shares examples of how the feminist movement is gaining momentum in Middle Eastern countries such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Women of faith are rising up with a healing holiness in the Middle East. We can join them in the struggle from here. Tell your representatives to Congress that you expect them to stand for human rights for all in Afghanistan.