05 April 2011

Thoughts on the Taliban

While I may get ticked off by some American Christians bent on legislating their sense of morality, subsidizing their churches with my tax dollars, and forcing their creation myths into public schools' science curriculum, I admit I don't really feel personally threatened by them.  Even the antics of anti-gay funeral protestors and Quran burners and the occasional doomsday cult militias are, compared to other forms of extremism, a minor annoyance.  I know I'm fortunate to live in a country where I can at least find secular ground to stand on and feel like there's a small place for nonbelievers among the religious majority, even if some members of that majority seem to hate my guts for not being one of them.

And with that, I'll say I'm glad I don't live in Afghanistan.  The past year has shown some disturbing news involving the Taliban, in which crowds of townsfolk were goaded into violence by Taliban activists.  Even those who didn't directly participate in the killings looked on as spectators - out of fear? schadenfreude?  a mix of both? - as perceived enemies of their culture and of Islam were set upon and brutalized by the mob.  We saw it again with the recent murders of UN aid workers by Taliban-instigated rioters claiming retribution for Pastor Jones' Quran burning party.

The Taliban is a uniquely frightening concept to me.  Unlike the top-down oppressive theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Taliban promotes vigilantism in the enforcement of its religious code.  As a heretic living with such a group present, your worst fear isn't the religious secret police - it's your neighbors, your friends, even your own family members, who may all one day surround you with stones in hand, believing it's their moral duty to spill your blood.

Reading news stories about this kind of oppression puts things in perspective.  There are still legal battles and hearts-and-minds campaigns that need to be fought and won on the home front against our homegrown religious fundamentalists, but they pale in magnitude compared to the life-and-death struggles people face under true religious tyranny.

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Creative Commons License