October 26, 2012
"They Are Not Muslims," Won’t Solve Our Terrorist Problem

It’s Eid - a time to be happy.

But today, like the last Eid, me and most of my friends have to read and write about another tragic terrorist attack. On Eid-ul-Fitr, it was the butchering of two dozen in northern Pakistan. This Eid, it’s the massacre of forty in northwestern Afghanistan. The killers keep reminding us about who they are by chanting, “Allah o Akbar” before - and if they are alive - after the massacres. Then we sit back and wonder as we have for the past decade and a half about how to stop them.

Ever since the arrival of the Taliban into the scene, we’ve all been grappling with how to fight these terrorists. Our overwhelming response on the state front has been to fight them militarily. We’ve seen where that’s taken us in Afghanistan, Northwestern Pakistan, Somalia… you name it. While strides have been made in several places, especially in Afghanistan, to combat them, the war is essentially a gridlock at this point. They roam free across much of the territories they’re present in and our efforts to combat with guns are not totally successful.

By and large, this is our problem. The killers are our people as are the overwhelming majority of the ones being killed. And if we can’t solve this ourselves, neither America, nor the EU nor China or Russia can solve it for us.

I’m not trying to say we’re all doomed, but they’re pretty successful. And the key to their success among other things has been their ability to attract new recruits to replace fallen comrades. This has been especially true along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. No matter how many you kill and capture, more pop out of ‘nowhere’. Obviously by now most of us have accepted the fact that the the overwhelming majority of these terrorists are recruited from within Islamic countries’ populations.

Hence, many of us have understood that to solve the terrorist problem, we must stop our brothers from being attracted to their ideology. However, we have mostly failed to achieve this. The major reason in my opinion for our failure has been our slightly self-righteous response to dissuade people from joining them.

The best way to get the point across to the reader requires me to recount to you a conversation I had with a Muslim friend who is highly intelligent and went to a prestigious school in the United States.

We were sipping coffee at a Starbucks in Washington D.C. and I was telling her about the terrible state of refugees from Pakistan in the wake of the encroaching Taliban militants in FATA a few years ago. She was listening intently until I uttered the words, “Muslim terrorist”. She suddenly turned angry, “Shahryar, of all the people I know, you should know that they are not Muslim!”

She went on to lecture me about how it’s an American and Israeli conspiracy to paint them as Muslims in order to malign Muslims etc. Well, then how do we stop them, I asked. She put her hands down and with all the world’s certainty in her voice said: “It’s simple. We just have to make a compelling argument to young Muslim men that terrorism is terrorism. That this has nothing to do with Islam. Basically, we have to tell them that these terrorists are not Muslims!”

I’ve heard this being echoed by others over the years - online, in real life, on TV. Every time you open your mouth about this topic, you get slammed with, “They are not Muslims!” I’ve heard it on the street, I’ve heard it in cafes and homes… on the phone… on Skype… Ordinary civilians are enamored with it as much as intellectuals and politicians. In my opinion, to a large portion of the public in Islamic countries where this exists, our best argument to dissuade people from joining the extremists has been telling young, poor, uneducated and politically disillusioned men who admire these terrorists that the terrorists are not Muslim.

And it’s an argument we simply cannot win, because in our societies, the general public is not the one who makes the decisions on who is Muslim and who’s not.

Let me illustrate.

Suppose I encounter a young, poor, poorly-educated Muslim man in Jalalabad or in Karachi - let’s say his name is Yusuf. He, I feel, has inklings of joining the extremists. Suppose I sit him down and try to persuade him to not fall into their trap. Now if I’m going by the “They are not Muslim!” argument, I’d explain to Yusuf how destroying the places of worship or religious icons of other religions is wrong or Prophet Mohammad explicitly told Muslim on Hujjat-ul-Wida that spilling the blood of Muslims is worse than defiling the Kaaba or how children, even if they are Christian or Hindu, simply cannot be killed under even the harshest Islamic laws because they are “masoom” (without sin).

All good and bon, right?

So after hearing all my arguments, Yusuf is approached by a Taliban recruitment party and is asked to join them. He wants more information and is taken to a Mullah for it. Let’s say I was a bit successful and Yusuf is curious about the Muslimhood of these men so he asks the Mullah questions about what I told him. The conversation is almost certainly going to go something like this.

Yusuf: “So I heard from this guy that you cannot kill children even if they are Christians. Your bombs are killing children.”

The Mullah will say something along the lines of: “They are liars. They support America and Israel and those people killed thousands of Iraqi children and are killing Palestinian children every day!”

Yusuf: “Hmm, what about destroying Muslim places of worship? You’ve bombed some mosques…”

The Mullah will again turn it around masterfully, “Yeah? And what about all the Muslim places of worship destroyed in India and Palestine and Iraq by these infidels?”

Yusuf: “But those mosques belong to Muslims. And The Prophet explicitly said that you can’t kill Muslims. This guy Shahryar told me this is wrong.”

Have you guessed the Mullah’s response? Here it is: “He is not Muslim!”

Now please tell me Yusuf is going to take my word over him. That he’ll believe a clean-shaven, jeans-wearing, English-speaking young guy like me over a bearded, turban-wearing, 40-50 something Mullah who pronounces all the Arabic letters of the alphabet correctly and who has a flock of Muslims praying behind him five times a day.

It is far easier for the Yusufs to believe that my friend in DC is not a Muslim because she doesn’t wear a hijab, lives in America and doesn’t pray five times a day as opposed to say a Mullah, who’s lived his entire life in a little village south of Kabul, has three wives and hates the Jews. The reason the extremists have been successful so far in attracting these men is precisely because these young men view them as more Muslim than the rest of us. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this article and you wouldn’t be reading it.

The terrorists most likely want us to stick to this argument because they know we cannot win it.

In our societies, the mullahs, mowlanas, khateebs and imams are the ones who decide who’s Muslim and who’s not - not the general public. And I have a feeling, even some of them would prefer the terrorists over us.

If we are to stop this tide, our strategy should be to provide these young men with arguments the Mullahs cannot successfully and clinically counter with their hateful rhetoric. There are economic arguments, political arguments, even humanitarian arguments that we can use. We can appeal to their emotions. To their better nature. To nationalism. Tribalism. There is so much that we can throw at them that they’ve been raised with and they value that I could probably turn this article into a book.

"They are not Muslims!" simply cannot work because the minute a Mullah opens his mouth guess what: we are *not* Muslims either.

September 16, 2012
یک گپ در مورد دفاع از اسلام و پیغمبر خدا

خوب. فلم گستاخ رسالت نشر شد. ملا ها غالمغال هم کردند. به سرک ها هم برامدند. چیغ و فریاد هم زدند که آماده هستیم برای پیغمبر خدا و دین اسلام سر بدهیم و جان بدهیم و… خود تان بهتر می فهمید و بهتر دیده اید.

می خواستم یک سوال کنم.

این ملا های که آماده هستند برای اسلام در چنین رخداد ها سر بدهند و جان بدهند چرا در مقابل جنایات تروریستان در افغانستان از مردم نمی خواهند که دست به تظاهرات بزنند؟ آیا هر روز قتل کودکان در افغانستان توسط طالب علیه اسلام نیست؟ علیه شریعت غرای محمدی نیست؟ چرا نمی بینیم که یک روز این ملا ها برخیزند و بگویند: مردم برایید به سرک ها و این تروریستان باید یک جواب محکم از طرف ما بگیرند که به هیچ وجه طرفدار شان نیستیم!

چرا اینکار نمی شود؟

آیا ایستاده شدن در مقابل ظالم دفاع از اسلام نیست؟ آیا حدیث نیست که گفتن حق در مقابل ظالم بزرگترین جهاد است؟ پس چرا ملا های ما در مقابل سیاستمدارانِ تنفگدار اقدام نمی کنند؟ چرا وقتی یک تن که دستش به خون مردم آغوشته هست به وزارت متعین می شود اینها نمی گویند که اینکار علیه اسلام است و بیایید تظاهرات کنیم؟ آیا اینکه شهادت - و آن هم به این اندازه شهادت والا - نصیب شان شود به دست رهبران دد صفت ما برایشان مطلوب نیست؟ ؟

چرا در مقابل بچه بازی تظاهرات نیست؟ چرا در مقابل اختلاس و زورگویی تظاهرات نیست؟ چرا در مقابل سنگسار بی وجه زنان تظاهرات نیست؟ چرا؟ آیا این ملا های ما کور هستند؟

آیا این کار ها دفاع از اسلام نیست که ملا های ما ایستاده گی کنند؟ البته به این گپ جواب دارم و می دانم که شما هم جواب دارید.

می دانید که اکثریت ملا های که همین حال آماده هستند در دفاع اسلام در مقابل یک فلم - یک فلم! - جان و سر بدهند آماده نیستند که به دفاع از کودکان افغانستان در مقابل تروریستان و یا وزرای قاتل و بچه بازان یک دقیقه هم ایستاده گی کنند. ای جانبازان دل های شان دل های روباه است. دفاع از اسلام دل شیر می خواهد! دل که براید و بگوید: عزیزان برایید از خانه هایتان و در مقابل این زذیلانِ تفتنگدار که کودک های مردم را اختطاف می کنند ایستاده گی کنید چون می دانند که جان شان می رود. و یا طالب. یا تفنگدار. یا قاچاقچی… نی نی. جانبازی باز از یاد شان می رود.

دفاع از اسلام وقتی یاد شان می آید که بی خطر باشد و در قدر و منزلت شان بدونِ از دست رفتن جانشان بیافزاید. باز فردا ملا مولوی می شود و اگر از اهل تشیع بود حتا آیت الله چون در مقابل امریکا قیام کرده - امریکای که امشب به خواب می رود و چرتش هم سر از اینها خراب نیست.

و این دفاع از اسلام اگر می بود چرا در مقابل فلم ها و کارتون های که به حضرت عیسی مسخره گی می کنند تظاهرات نیست؟ استفاده جویی دیگر شاخ و دم دارد؟

خدا همهُ ما را کمک کند که منافقانه و استفاده جویانه از نام خدا و رسلش دفاع نکنیم. یار زنده و صحبت باقی.


شهریار

April 15, 2012
Kabul Attacks (Map + Info + Links)

Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was under attack for several hours this evening. They were directed at both central and southern Kabul. Here’s a map to illustrate the scope of the attacks:


The three locations in the north of the map are the US Embassy, the German Embassy and the UK Embassy and the large one in the south is the Afghan Parliament, which were all attacked according to the Intentional Security Assistance Force, Al Jazeera reports. A third attack was carried out against the Turkish army base east of the city not shown in this map.

The attacks are reminiscent of the attack last year on the US Embassy where terrorists holed up in a building and used higher ground to shoot at targets around them. Reports from today indicate that a similar strategy is possibly been employed in this attack, but it is too early to confirm that possibility with certainty.

Multiple reporters in Kabul on Twitter quoted Interior Ministry officials claiming that at least four terrorists in the attacks have been killed and there maybe two to three more still at large. Attackers used heavy weapons, including grenades per some reports and as loud explosions were heard from the scene of the attacks as well as gunfire, that possibility is quite strong.

The Interior Ministry also confirmed the wounding of 11 policemen, but denied any deaths and no civilian casualty figures were available. There’s also footage of the attacks from Mashaal Radio and Tolo TV. It is worth mentioning that international troops were not involved in repelling the terrorists and the Afghan police were the ones responsible for stamping them out.

Follow Afghan reporters Massoud Husseini, Ahmad Mukhtar, Ehsanullah Amiri and Habib Khan Totakhil for more updates.

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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