One of the gravest mistakes that political analysis -- even in the West -- regularly slips into is restricting criticism of the Taliban to its human rights violations and spending time trying to prove this stance on the movement’s declared thoughts and policies. It may be true that since its inception, not only since its recent return to power, the Taliban has adopted restrictive approaches against women, religious minorities, the freedom of expression, and other political parties or movements, to name a few. However, the truth is that limiting the problem to these issues, which are surely of interest to all those interested in monitoring human rights, leaves out some major disasters that make human rights violations, despite their great importance, seem trivial. It also fuels the idea that the Taliban could be repaired if only it is persuaded or even pressured to change its thoughts and practices!
The danger of such an approach lies in that it distracts the world from the ultimate catastrophe, which is that the Taliban’s violations are based on religious interpretations that are firmly established in its ideology. The movement boasts that these interpretations are a great favor for which the entire world, not only Afghanistan, should thank the Taliban. One of these interpretations is stigmatizing women as the source of all temptation and evil, and thus, excluding them from the public scene, refusing their education, and forcing them to stay home or limit their movements. Another instance of the Taliban’s understanding of religion is extreme hostility to literature and arts, to the point of considering them the essence of blasphemy; as well as to modern science, which, according to the movement, fails to understand that the Koran obviates the need for any kind of research! This is what makes the Taliban hostile to modern civilization and its values. However, the movement also didn’t spare ancient civilizations. Suffice it to say that the Taliban did not think twice before striking statues in an old temple with artillery two decades ago, turning a deaf ear to the collective dismay of the global community.
Some states may find themselves forced to deal with the Taliban now that the group decides whether to respond to the interests of others in Afghanistan or hinder them. However, such dealings do not justify these states’ promotion of a false image of the Taliban, or their reluctance to warn of its dangers on humanity and civilization, or their disturbance of those who do make these warnings.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Egyptian daily Al Ahram.