This past week, I read Chapter 19, in Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, titled “A Village Called New York.” Throughout the chapter, it discussed the education offered in the Wahhabi madrassas, where students are brainwashed into “thinking twenty, forty, even sixty years ahead to a time when their armies of extremism will have the numbers to swarm over the Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world.” The chapter also yielded statistics that over 80,000 madrassa students were Taliban recruits, and about 15% received military training.
It is for this very reason that educating the young people of Afghanistan is so important. By educating them, they are able to read the Koran on their own and are therefore able to make their own decisions. Without an education, they are vulnerable to being brainwashed by the Taliban, thus being made to think that “war is the only occupation that they could possibly adapt to.”
The 9/11 attacks were made by students of schools similar to the Wahhabi marassas, who believed that these attacks were just and necessary. While a few members of the Afghan population agree with these beliefs, many were very outraged by the 9/11 attacks. Syed Abbas, a Shiite cleric, was quoted in the chapter. He said, “We share in the sorrow as people weep and suffer in America today…those who have committed this evil act against the innocent, the women and the children, to create thousands of widows and orphans, do not do so in the name of Islam. By the grace of Allah the Almighty, may justice be served upon them…I request America to look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education.”
This captured the feelings of many Pakistani and Afghan people after the 9/11 attacks. While we were mourning and outraged, they were embarrassed for the actions of their countrymen and sorrowful for the pain and suffering Americans had to undergo. Other Pakistani men were described as spitting towards Afghanistan out of anger and spite towards Osama bin Laden and the Al Queda. In many ways, their emotions mirrored our own.
After 9/11, I remember everyone having feelings of outrage, sadness, and panic. I was only 11 years old when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers and didn’t quite understand it. Part of me was scared, while the other part was angry that someone could knowingly cause so much hurt. I knew the deaths were tragic and so many people lost loved ones, but I couldn’t grasp the idea of why it happened. I remember writing in my diary that night, “Today has been the worst day ever. No matter what I’ve said before, or what arguments I’ve had, nothing has been worse than this. Today, terrorists crashed into the Twin Towers and killed so many people. I don’t know how to feel, everyone is just angry, but all I feel is sadness.”
Terrorist—such a scary word, especially to an 11 year old. It wasn’t long before I began to conceptualize the Afghan and Pakistani people as terrorists. As a very impressionable pre-teenager, I relied heavily on the media to formulate my opinions. The media portrayed the entire Middle Eastern population as terrorists—people to be feared. As a result of the media coverings and new rules and regulations, I was trained to fear anyone I saw in an airport who fit the “terrorist image.” I developed the mindset that Americans were superior to anyone of Islamic background. I was happy believing that they had no feelings, no heart, and no soul. I was happy in my ways, until taking this class at USF’s Honors College and reading this book.
I soon learned that it was a war on terrorism, not on the Afghan people. The Afghan people have suffered greatly from the Taliban and their infliction. The Taliban destroyed villages, burned schools, and sprayed acid into young girls’ faces to deter them from attending school. Similar to Americans after 9/11, a large percentage of the population is victimized by the Taliban, and outraged by their actions. The only way to stop their oppression is the foundation of a solid education. By offering the young people of Afghanistan access to an unbiased, non-religious based education, they are able to formulate their own opinions and develop their own innovative ideas for how something should be. They can be the light of change to a country living in the darkness of fear and cruelty.