It's back 'in the wilderness' for poor Afghanistan


  • Letters
  • Thursday, 16 Oct 2003

BY SHAHANAAZ HABIB

POOR Afghanistan. 

It is the forgotten cousin once again. Everyone is talking about Iraq, Palestine and Syria at the OIC meeting but hardly a squeak is heard about Afghanistan. 

This month two years ago, the war on Afghanistan took out the Taliban but little has changed since then.  

Warlords and bandits have taken over and every day people live in fear of being attacked, robbed, raped, abducted and killed by rogues. 

In many parts, girls dare not go back to school as they have no wish to become targets of gunmen and rapists.  

Roads are still so bad that it takes two hours to travel from Kabul to Low Taghara, a village just 12km away. 

Growing opium has become Afghanistan’s number one business. 

It is the one of the poorest countries in the world and 70% of its population is undernourished. 

Only 36% of Afghans are literate and most live an average of only 42 years. 

And are Muslim countries doing enough to help them out of their two decade-long plight? 

When America’s CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence bred and funded the Taliban to counter the threat of the communist Soviet Union back in 1979, the rest of the Muslim world, most of whom were US allies, stood by and watched.  

They did not act against this brand of extremist Islam although many might not have been comfortable with it. 

When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban took over, the Muslim world again did not say enough and do anything when the extremists put Afghan girls out of schools and deprived them of an education, executed many locals and threw children into prison. 

It took the Sept 11 attacks on the United States for Taliban rule to be finally brought to an end. 

Because the United States is the Frankenstein that created the Taliban – the monster that turned against its creator – perhaps it is only right then that the United States bears the responsibility of hunting down and killing its own creature. 

But while this happens, Muslim countries shouldn’t let go of the opportunity to rebuild a healthy Islam there.  

And now as Afghanistan slips again into chaos and insecurity, is the Muslim world going to again just sit back and watch? 

Is it going to ignore destitute Afghanistan just because the world’s focus has now shifted to Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Iran? And can it afford to? 

As for Iraq, while the US-led war there is illegal and immoral as it did not have the mandate of the United Nations and was carried out unilaterally, let us also not forget how much the Iraqis suffered under Saddam Hussein regime. 

“You Malaysians love Saddam,” accused Dr Mahmud Osman, a member from the Iraqi Governing Council in a voice tinged with anger. 

“Things are getting better. The images you see on TV are exaggerated. As for the bombings, that happens in all countries, not just Iraq,” he said when met on Monday.  

It is very easy for us to sit on the outside in front of television sets and judge.  

We have never had to live under such a leader so we do not know how much the Iraqis suffered with Saddam as their leader. 

So while people looking from the outside are quick to condemn the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, let us also be just as quick to admit our failings. 

Muslim countries (and Western ones too) did nothing when Saddam gassed his people, locked them in underground cells, cut off their ears and tongues, killed thousands and buried them in mass graves? 

We looked the other way because it was a no-no to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. 

But if this involved unjust torture, blatant atrocities, murder, mutilation, and stripping people of their basic human dignity, how could Muslims and Muslim countries have kept silent? That too is immoral.  

It is also a sad thing really when Muslim countries make excuses for lapses and shield their own and other cruel Muslim leaders. 

One just has to look at ousted Ugandan leader Idi Amin, a Muslim who killed 300,000 of his people.  

He fed bodies to crocodiles and beheaded some of his political rivals and kept their heads in the fridge for amusement. 

This man should have been tried for these brutal atrocities and genocide but instead two Muslim countries came to his rescue and gave him refuge for more than 20 years until he passed away recently.  

What message does this send to Muslims or the world as a whole? 

That it is okay for Muslims to be cruel towards other Muslims? Surely that cannot be right.  

It is time the Muslim world stopped failing its people. 

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