Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Face of Islamism

In Afghanistan, where Islamist extremists continue their campaign to return the country to the seventh century, Taliban "insurgents" have beheaded Malim Abdul Habib in front of his wife and family. What crime did Mr. Habib commit? The worst one of all: he tried to teach girls how to read and write.

Hundreds of thousands of girls have returned to school since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

A UNICEF spokesman said the attacks were "incredibly worrying."

"Militants are clearly trying to intimidate communities and force families not to send their girls to school," Edward Carwardine said. "We hope these incidents will not deter families. ... Fortunately, so far we have not seen a decline in girls attending."

He said about 90 percent of Afghan adults are believed to support educating girls. Many of those who oppose it are in conservative rural areas dominated by ethnic Pashtun where the Taliban — who also are Pashtun — are most powerful.

The government condemned the killing. Masood Khalili, the Afghan ambassador to Turkey, where President Hamid Karzai was visiting, said it was "disgusting action by the enemies of Afghanistan."

Esanullah said Habib resumed a more than 20-year teaching career two years ago after the Taliban threatened him while he was working for an aid group helping the disabled. Since then, the Taliban had warned him twice to stop teaching.

Educating women would raise their status in society and might make them more apt to challenge the men who dominate them. The Taliban cannot tolerate such an idea.

In the past year, Taliban insurgents have occasionally put up posters around Qalat demanding girls' schools be closed and threatening to kill teachers, Khushal said.

He said 100 of the province's 170 registered schools have been closed in the past two to three years because of poor security. Of the 35,000 students attending schools in Zabul, 2,700 were girls, he said.

There has been a series of attacks on girls' schools and teachers across Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell. In October, gunmen killed a headmaster in front of his students at a boys' school in southern Kandahar province, the former stronghold of the Taliban regime.


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