April 1, 2012
Why Are Afghans Not Ashamed of Violence

A couple of days ago, a story ran of Taliban fighters getting arrested in Laghman in women’s clothing. They were trying to infiltrate without raising suspicious. Here’s a picture of two of the terrorists as they were being escorted by the security forces:

Of course their actions are to be condemned.

However, what caught my eye was seeing the condemnation turn to a shaming contest. And what depressed me was that most of the commenters were calling these potential killers dishonored men for hiding behind women’s clothing.

I know what you might be thinking. “It is dishonorable!” Maybe so, but don’t you think we should be more outraged that these people were planning to kill? Isn’t killing more shameful? I mean think about it.

Why don’t we feel like the act of taking a life is shameful? How brave are you who takes a gun and kills unarmed civilians - including women and children? I want to blame Saudi Arabia for sending money to mullahs to teach these Taliban hatred towards others. I want to blame Pakistan’s Army and ISI for teaching them how to kill.

But no. I’m going to blame us. Our culture of having very little regard for life. For giving very little importance to it. For raising men making them believe that they need to fight. That they need to learn violence. No, not to learn violence. To be violent in general.

We take pride in being violent. Yeah, we do. We tell our stories of how we conquered and fought and destroyed. That is being proud of violence!

We don’t look at violence as a shameful act anymore. It’s just part of our culture. We expect our men to be fighters. We expect them to be killers. Hence, we are no longer outraged that Afghan men go out to kill as much as we are when they are caught wearing women’s clothes.

Why don’t we teach our kids things like, “Violence is nothing to be proud of!” or “Taking a life is the worst thing imaginable.” Isn’t that what Prophet Mohammed taught? That the blood of a Muslim is holier than the Kaaba. Here is a link to the Hadith if you don’t believe me.

I understand our ancestors were fighters. They fought everyone, all their lives. But they are dead. We are alive. And our lives are ruined thanks to disregard for human life. Thanks to breeding a culture that glorifies violence. A culture that tells us that we need to be fighters… not sensitive poets and writers. Not builders of schools and hospitals. Not teachers of math and science.

We raise children, telling them about the bravery of Ahmad Shah Baba, Mahmood Ghaznavi or Shabuddin Ghowri… Would it be wrong if instead we raised them teaching them the love and compassion that Mowlanaye Rumi and Rahman Baba taught us?

Where is Ahmad Shah? Where is Ghaznavi and Ghowri? They are all dead, in their graves. The empires they built are all gone. We are left with a tiny mountainous country with very little resources.

But look at the words and teachings of Mowlanaye Rumi and Rahman Baba… they are still with us. They enrich our lives daily. They make me proud of speaking Farsi and Pashto.

Isn’t it time that we stopped being ashamed of wearing women’s clothes and instead started being ashamed of being violent… for teaching violence… for glorifying violence? Using violence should be a last resort when our freedom is at stake. Not something to be used at any given opportunity, for anything - be it for religious, for culture or for anything else.

It should be used only when you are defending against someone who is even more violent. And even then, we should try to avoid using violence until there is nothing else left. Didn’t thirty three years of being violent about everything teach us anything?

And I understand. Many people reading this will say, “Oh, but I don’t like violence…” There is a difference between “not liking" violence and being "ashamed" of violence. It’s much more powerful. It means you will actually do something to stop it. Not passively sit around and hope it’ll end on its own.

I want to show you another picture…

Yes, he is American.

His name is Dennis Weichel.

He is 29 years old. No, he was 29 years old. He died last week. He didn’t die fighting. He died after he jumped in front of a truck and moved a little Afghan girl from in front of it. She lived. He died. He has three children who won’t have a father anymore. He has a wife who won’t have a husband anymore. He has a father and a mother who won’t have a son anymore.

I am proud of him for doing that. And I’m ashamed of the Taliban who were arrested for planning to kill. And if I had children, I will raise them non-violent.

I will teach them that bravery means giving your life to save another person’s life. Not taking a life to win your cause. I will teach them Rumi and Rahman Baba. I will teach them that being violent is nothing to be proud of. That if they want to be proud of something, it should be being proud of being a teacher, a doctor, an engineer.

I hope that breaks the cycle of violence a little. I don’t know if it will, but something has to change.

Your Josh

P.S. Farsi translation coming soon…

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