Monday, September 25, 2006

If It’s Not About Religion, Then What?

(AP) Two gunmen on a motorbike killed the provincial director of Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs outside her home in the southern city of Kandahar on Monday, officials said.
    Safia Ahmed-jan was shot to death while walking to her office, said Tawfiq ul-Ulhakim Parant, senior adviser to the women's ministry in Kabul.
    Aleem Sidique, the spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said the U.N. was "appalled at this senseless murder."
    "What we need to see in Afghanistan is peace, development and progress," Sidique said. "We share the sentiment of the majority of Afghan people who are appalled at this killing."
    Ahmed-jan was an active proponent of women's rights in a region where insurgents are extremely active.
   
Recently on CNN, Christiane Amanpour hosted a “summit” featuring former President Bill Clinton and “an expert” panel including Israeli Vice Premier, Shimon Peres; U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Dina Powell; Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan; Former United Nations Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi; Former U.S. Senator and Northern Ireland peace negotiator, George Mitchell and editor-at-large of Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, Rami Khouri.
    At the end of the program President Clinton was given the final word and as one could predict, absolved religion as the cause of the world’s troubles: no, the problems are “political,” said President Clinton.
    Is it any wonder that absolutely no progress is being made to deal with the escalating violence and hatred when even a comparatively bright world leader is so oblivious to the obvious?
    Precisely what is the problem, politically, between the Palestinians and the Israelis?  Or the Muslims or Hindus in
Kashmir?  Or the Tamil Tigers and the government in Sri Lanka?  Catholics vs. Protestants in Northern Ireland?  Or Al Qaeda and the US?  Iraqi Sunnis vs. Iraqi Shia?  The US vs. Iran?
    Is it socialism vs. capitalism?  States rights vs. federalism?  Freedom vs. tyranny?
    Answers: No, no and no.
    The defining difference in each case is religious.  There indeed may be differences in income status or in state-sanctioned discrimination or some other “political” injustice; but the motive for the injustice or difference is based on religious identity.
    The Shia vs. Sunni tragedy is a shining example: both sides of this conflict view Islam as integral to governing a nation; neither side is noted as more freedom loving or hating than the other; neither is noted as more right-wing or left-wing than the other.  Both sides distrust the
US and resent US presence in Iraq.  What is the problem?
    Answer: One side is Sunni and the other is Shia.
  The story in
Afghanistan is another example of the religious root of so many of the world’s problems: the victim was not killed because of a political difference; she was killed because of her work toward the liberation of the women of Afghanistan and the opposition was religiously motivated.
    To be in denial of this is to close one’s eyes to the facts and to render oneself incapable of solving the underlying problem.
    And indeed, the underlying problem will remain unsolved as long as religion remains untouchable.

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