When the west started backing Islamic resistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan nobody knew that it is helping roll the clock centuries back to reestablish a medieval-like societies and mentalities in different parts of the world. Since then, the influence of extremists in Islamic states and even in the west itself has grown much bigger. The long bearded genie, in short worn-out thobe, with an exploding belt on his waist is set free. Jihadists and Salafis around the world turned their back to “foreign enemies” and started the battle to subdue their own nations.
Some events that took place last month are worth notice:
In Pakistan, Taliban shot the 14 year old activist Malala Yousafzai in head and nearly killed her on the background of her supporting the right of girls in education. Taliban has banned girls from attending school. Malala received treatment in UK and is back home despite the continuous threat. “If Malala survives, we will target her again,” says Taliban.
Taliban has launched a systemic war on education: 96 schools were destroyed or blasted by militants this year (more than two schools per week). Taliban is also targeting school buses, teachers, and school administrative staff.
I remember the equation Algerian extremists set for dealing with thought enemies in 1990’s: sword against word. Several journalists were assassinated because they were so reasonable to be tolerated by radicals.
In Egypt, two Copt kids – one nine and the other ten – were arrested for Quran defiling. Notice the age group. A Salafi mullah claimed the boys have insulted Quran. Salafis are gaining more power in post-revolution Egypt. They are getting more influential even when not officially backed back Morsi’s government. The overall policy of Muslim Brotherhood encouraged more assaults on civil rights. In Luxor, a veiled teacher punished two 12 year old girls for refusing to wear veils by cutting their hair. “I was joking with them when one of the students got out some scissors and asked me to carry out my threat. I did it to maintain my authority,” says the teacher.
The removal of a photo posted by Syrian activist Dana Bakdounes on the Uprising of Women in the Arab World page by facebook after being reported “insulting” by extremists is an alarming event. Dana posted her photo with a message saying she is with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years she was not allowed to feel wind in her hair and body. She removed her veil – a personal choice that she took – after being forced to wear it for 20 years. Obviously extremists are getting more intolerant to an extent that they see an insult in any act of free expression or free personal choices. Sadly, they are now influencing social media, forcing veils even on facebook.
After the footage of ridiculous anti-islam movie this year and the tragic death of US ambassador in Benghazi, many voices raised for the promulgation of an international law that bans insulting religions. Such a law if adopted would not only give juridical bases to limit freedom (as the criteria of insulting religion are so wide and ambiguous), it would also inflame sectarian clashes between different religious groups. The beliefs of one group may be considered an insult to the beliefs of another (abrahamic v/s non-abrahamic religions, Sunni’s v/s Shiites, and even Sunni groups among themselves).
Current events show that no one is immune from the consequences of religious intolerance, even diplomats, children and social media. Who knows what to expect next?