"Shukria has been martyred!"
This was the phrase a mother in Afghanistan got to hear from her youngest daughter concerning her oldest on 12 June 2007. You may wonder if Shukria was a suicide bomber. She was not. You may wonder if she was a fighter in the struggle with American and allied forces. Not she. Shukria was a 13 year old girl attending school with aspirations to become a doctor and serve the people of her native Afghanistan. On the 12th of June all those dreams ended, along with her life, when two gunmen on motorcycles targeted a group of female students leaving school. Five other students were wounded in the shooting.
This is not the first time Shukria's school has been targeted with violence. So committed to the oppression of women is traditional, fundamentalist Islam that the school has sustained rocket fire.
All because girls are being educated within the school's walls. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, that it was carried out by members of the Taliban, and Al Quaeda or their sympathizers is in little doubt. There is a growing, and bold fundamentalist insurgency made up of Taliban fighters and local militias in Afghanistan. According to various human rights organizations, OXFam, UNICEF among them, there have been at least 14 attacks on schools in the last 2 months, that come mostly in the form of arson, and in the south eastern portion of the country many more schools remain closed due to threats from the rather fascistic forces of radical islam. This is a decidedly poor state of affairs for a country boasting one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Not a good sign for a country struggling toward modernity.
While there is undoubtly much that is wrong in Afghanistan, and it would be a gross mistep to lay everything at the foot of religious belief, it can hardly be ignored. Islam is a large part of the problem. Certainly in the case of the treatment of women. Author Sam Harris has made the, not implausible, suggestion that under Islamic authority, the most oppressed people are indeed muslims themselves. Their women certainly are, and we can see what devotion to the Koran can do for the protection of children. Which is to say precisely nothing....at all.
Islam isn't the only relgion to mis-treat children, christianity, and judiasm certainly enjoy a certain bit of chummyness with islam in this regard. In fact, I am coming more and more to think that religion is wed to a certain amount of child abuse. In any event, the three equally fatuous monotheisms are engaged in greater or lesser amounts of this pastime of abuse. And it needn't be blatant abuse like shooting girls for going to school, or honour killing, or molesting altar boys for those catholics reading this. Terrorizing children with nonsense about hell and eternal torture will do just fine. I think the police state of heaven is kind of terrible too. But no matter. I don't know about you, but i once worried for days about the salvation of my friends when I was very young. And then when I started to doubt I worried-not as much as some-about whether or not I too would get to taste the eternal tortures that await the damned. Doesn't it bother any believers that eternal damnation is equal for thoughts, as well as for the actions of people like John Wayne Gacy? That seems a little inequitable for the God of love. Thought crime is just as punshible in the realm of Abraham's God as it is in an Orwellian dystopia.
For two, otherwise normal men to shoot at a group of girls returning from school requires a level derangement unimaginable by me. In fact the whole disgusting affair turns my stomach. It reminds me of a quote by the physicist Steven Weinberg which goes something like this, "In a perfectly normal universe, good people will do good things to the best of their ability, and evil people will do evil things. But for good people to do evil...that takes religion." This is nearly a perfect axiom.
I can never imagine beating my child, much less shooting them dead, or as happend recently in Iraq stoning her to death, for the imagined crime of falling in love, or speaking with someone, or not wearing some article of clothing. Nor could I bring myself to scare her sensless with ideas about which not one shred of evidence exists. This is decidedly not so if I am true believer. Once religion is entered into the equation of my parenting practices apparently unending abusive sillyness can ensue. Canvassing several religions, forced circumcision of females (a ephamistic term for the removal of the clitoris, and much of the labia of pubescent girls and then the sewing up of the vaginal opening with only a small hole for mentstration and urination), male circumscision, scaring them with hell for a variety of victimless crimes, honour killing, killing children, and women for violating Sharia law, or the removal of womens noses for adultry under the same law, denying children access to medicine (pick your religion here), reducing their intellectual horizons and the list could go on.
It maybe true that there are liberal islamists, christians, and jews. Vast stretchs of such people may, or as it turns out may not, argue against fundamentalist readings of their books of faith. But all we have is what the books themselves say. And sadly amid the gems of nice peacable stuff, there is a host of evil wicked thought. I think is time we started ridiculeing it all. Whether you are a moderate muslim or a radical-islamofascist, you are still basing your life on same basic un-truth. This is the same of all the mono-thesisms. Maybe it is time to leave these "good" books-at least as guides to morality- behind us, in what Chistopher Hitchens has aptly called, "the flailing, cringing, crying infancy of our species."