Banning Afghan girls education: A mystery
ONCE again the world is deeply concerned with the Taliban leadership’s recent decision to ban women in Afghanistan from participating in university-level education and working for NGOs.
This is not the first time but continuation of the series of bans on women/young girls seeking education and empowerment.
These weird measures are negatively affecting women and girls who are almost half of the population.
The Taliban leadership calls girls education against Sharia but what are they referring to when many Muslim countries are not banning their women/girls from seeking education or employment?
I am unable to comprehend how women seeking education are posing a threat to the Taliban and what is the nature of that threat.
Can the Taliban government afford such measures? The simple answer to the above question is that the Taliban government cannot afford such bizarre policies.
In my previous articles, I have been writing that since the Taliban government is new and they need time to adjust according to the need of time.
But it’s almost one and a half years since they are in power – this much time is sufficient enough for any government to frame their policies towards women/girls’ education and empowerment.
But the Taliban are taking forever in improving their governance towards women’s basic right to education.
Instead of going forward, the Taliban opted to go backward with such bans. This is beyond understanding and questions the Taliban governance mechanism.
Well, there is a general perception that in the garb of NGOs many agencies are pursuing their agenda/political objectives.
If the Taliban consider women in NGOs working for foreign agendas or if someone is misusing them for their nefarious acts against the de facto government of the Taliban or a threat to their security that can be understood.
But how on earth can the Taliban ban women from education? It is a serious offence and against Islamic teachings.
If we go back to the history of Islam, the first word revealed was “READ” – if religion Islam was supporting men/boys’ education alone – then the word should be explicitly pointing towards men only.
However, the word “READ” does not represent any gender but the same rule for all that read.
In Islam seeking education, conducting research and valuing consensus has great significance.
The Last Prophet (PBUH) supported education for girls then why on earth Taliban think it is against Islam?
I would like to quote some Hadith here for better understanding. ‘Whosoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, the Almighty will make easy for him a path to paradise’.
‘Education is not only the right but the duty of every Muslim, male or female”. The best gift from a father to his child is education and upbringing’.
Well, these are just a few Hadith to quote here – they were never meant to be for men alone.
The religion Islam prefers education for all categories of gender. No one has the right to deprive any gender of their basic fundamental right.
Then again why are the Taliban banning girls’ education? Is it simply a blackmailing stunt? If it was a plan to redirect the world’s attention towards Afghanistan – since the Russia-Ukraine war Afghanistan is off air – then it was a bad attempt/plan/stunt and poorly executed.
With such gestures, the Taliban cannot bear fruit and sustain their position but this will lead to the world questioning the identity of the Taliban as Muslims/leaders.
Perhaps this is not what the Quran and Hadith have taught Muslims. The world can understand the cultural values and traditions of the Taliban.
Women observing purdah under the new Taliban regime were still accepted with a heavy heart but banning their education is an ugly turn that the Taliban has taken.
Well, I am myself a Pashtun and come from the same conservative society. But my family allowed me to seek education even though I was allowed to travel to Australia for my PhD and am now affiliated with one of the most recognised Universities in Pakistan.
Does all of this make me less respectable or less Muslim? Not at all! Being educated I know my duties as a Muslim woman.
I practice religion carefully and spread the message that Islam is a peaceful religion that supports rights for everyone irrespective of their caste, colour, creed or gender.
If the Taliban wish to be recognised and survive in the international community, they will have to abide by international norms.
Learn from Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia. Taliban should carefully observe the visionary policies of Mohammed Bin Salman and get some inspiration from his vision 2030.
Taliban should not forget that if Saudi Arabia can evolve and diversify its policies towards women’s empowerment and education so should they.
Well, the Taliban should also not forget that Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two Holy Mosques and Qibla of the entire Muslim Ummah.
If Saudis can empower women and stand for their acquiring universal literacy rate so should Afghanistan.
Otherwise, instability, pain, war and chaos will be the fate of Afghans which they do not deserve.
They have all the rights to education and empowerment like any Muslim in any part of the world.
Taliban should not forget that in Muslim societies; women are never controlled the way the Taliban are aiming for.
They should learn from Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan and make their government broad-based where women are not marginalized.
In this day and age, there is no point/room to discuss whether an Afghan girl child should get an education or not.
In 2022 this is clearly understood that education is a fundamental right irrespective being Afghan or not.
Unfortunately, whatever the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan is not based on religious understanding but on some personal agenda with which they cannot survive in the twenty-first century.
To survive they need flexibility and get recognised by their neighbours and build alliances. With rigidity, they cannot make friends around but can increase hatred towards them.
In the end, I would like to appeal to the Taliban to change their mindset before the world disregards you!
—The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Government and Public Policy, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, National University of Sciences and Technology.