The 21st Century Phenomenon


One of the political means used by Egyptian authorities to overcome Islamic militancy and terror, which flourished in Egypt in the 80s’ and up to the mid 90s’, following the assassination of the Egyptian President Anwar Saadat, on 10/06/1981, was to reach out to Islam by making many political concessions to Islam. One of the steps taken was to create a Supreme Islamic Council, manned by senior Islamic Clerics in Egypt, to supervise the Egyptian constitution with the power to abolish any law considered to contradict basic Islamic values.

Almost all the population in Pakistan and Afghanistan are devoted Muslims. Many of them, especially the Pashtu tribes region, adopted a strict radical version of Islam which, among other things, shoves aside women from political and public life. The Burka (veil), in which almost all Afghan women are covered in Afghanistan and large parts of Pakistan, is not a Taliban invention but a tradition of many generations.

Democracy is basically a secular political method, in which not god but people decides what is good and bad right or wrong. Imposing liberal version of democracy on the societies in Pakistan and Afghanistan means to collide, head on, with local most basic traditions and values.

The mission of routing out Al Qaeda with and through local arrangements with Afghan and Pakistani tribes can be achieved. But to impose Western democratic values and to judge the local values accordingly is to turn the pro Al Qaeda Islamic insurgency to a popular resistance against foreign occupation and foreign values and to turn the focused conflict with the ideas of Al Qaeda to a larger conflict with large societies in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Indeed the political leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan try, times and again, to reach out to Islamic radicalization since there is no way to stabilize the local political system and to achieve some sort of national reconciliation without respecting local values and traditions, although some times very repulsive in Western eyes. Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari accepted the Swat Truce II with his Taliban in Northern Pakistan, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai called repeatedly the Taliban to join his regime (see – Karzai’s Peace offer).  Hamid Karzai knows that there will be no peace and stability in Afghanistan without the Pashtu tribes represented by the Taliban alliance. He also fully understands that he must respect local traditions and Taliban values if he is looking for reconciliation.  

Recently Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been urged by the UN and Western aid agencies to abolish a new law that they say legalizes rape within marriage. The law was backed by influential Shiaa clerics, and Shiaa political parties.

“We have elections coming up in the summer and President Karzai’s dependency on these fundamentalist groups is growing – and also he wants to have the support of the extremist Shiaa groups.” a female Member of Parliament – Fawzia Koofi accused the president.

UN claims that the law – signed by the president last month – limits the rights of women from the Shiaa minority. They say it removes the right of women to refuse their husbands sex, unless they are ill. Women will also need to get permission from their husbands if they want to leave their homes, unless there is an emergency.

Although in Western eyes the new law is repellent and discriminating against women it also reflects the local values and traditions. The dilemma how far can foreigners intervene in the Afghan society, judges its values, dictate their way of life and hope for peace and national reconciliation in Afghanistan at the same time, remains opened.   


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