“Understanding” the Taliban, as much as may be possible

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.


Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

The word Taliban is from the Pashto language which means “students.” Pashto is a language in Afghanistan, and the language is also known as Afghani. It is an Indo-European language spoken primarily in Afghanistan, and northwestern Pakistan.
The Taliban is an ultraconservative political and religious faction that emerged in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s following the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the collapse of Afghanistan’s communist regime, and the subsequent breakdown in civil order. Afghan mujahideen warlords (mujahideen broadly means Islamic guerrilla fighters, especially in the Middle East) replaced their war with the Soviets with an Afghanistan civil war.
There was no such thing as the Taliban until Afghanistan’s civil war in the wake of Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, after a decade-long occupation. By the time their last troops withdrew in February 1989, the Soviets had left a nation in social and economic disarray and despair with 1,500,000 dead, millions of refugees and orphans left in Iran and Pakistan, and a gaping political hole that the mujahideen attempted to fill.
The beginning of the Taliban was the result of Afghan refugees fleeing Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, and the resulting Afghan civil war of the 1990s.
With financial help from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which gave rise to many Islamic religious madrassas (schools) where young Afghans, orphaned by the wars back home, were educated along strict ideological lines (encouraged by Pakistani and Saudi authorities to develop militantly inclined Islamists) and grew up to become exactly that: what we deem as “terrorists,” or as they now call themselves, the Taliban (students).
Pakistan also consciously intended to use the madrassas’ militants (the orphaned afghan students) as leverage to control Afghanistan.
So, these orphans grew up without knowing their homeland (Afghanistan) or their parents, especially their mothers. Way fewer than even a quarter of these students were literate. The result was that those young Afghans from those madrassas became what they were taught to
become and are the backbone of what we know as the Taliban.
Somewhere around this time, Saudi Arabia had an opening, so to speak, to further Wahhabism (an Islamic denomination named after its founder) as its official religion. Pakistan’s military dictator, General Zia ul Haq (1924-1988), a devout Wahabi himself, decided to establish this network of madrassas (schools) to train and educate the young minds in the art of hating the US/Zionism. He wanted these madrassas to become a permanent supply source of mujahideen.
Regarding the teaching of those young Afghans, they went strictly by the book (the Quran). Islam is not an easy religion to understand (for us). Without understanding the Quran, which is their holy book and the book which contains everything that they believe and take into consideration for how to act, and which those of us who haven’t read it in the language in which it was written, or Arabic, cannot do
(unless, of course, we have studied it under an Islamic imam or in some other way got to appreciate the various nuances in the many
translations into other languages) and may truly fail to understand.
(Bear in mind that Islam came after both the much earlier Hebrew religion and then Christianity, and is the religio-cultural connective
of North Africa, the Levant, and southeastern Asia. It was Jewish theology in connection with the later Christian teachings that made
Islam monotheistic. The followers of Mohammed could not, however, quite grasp the advanced teachings of the Trinity; they could not
comprehend the doctrine of three divine personalities within one God (such as we know by understanding the nature of water, having three forms yet still being one: liquid, solid, or vapor).
Following the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan became a refuge for
Taliban and mujahideen fighters. This province is now controlled by the Taliban.
The Quran, as they believe, is a series of divine revelations directly from God. It comprises, as they say, the unaltered and direct words of
God, revealed through the Angel Gabriel, to the final Prophet, Muhammad some 1400 years ago. Islam, they believe, is a continuation
of the teachings of previous Prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, David, Moses, and Jesus.
Muslims follow the Quran and its teachings with what they may truly believe is a sincere heart because they absolutely believe it is the
only way to earn heaven and do the will of Allah. Yet all Muslims of today did not learn at those religious schools funded by Pakistani and
Saudi authorities to develop into those militantly-inclined Islamists.
Next week I will be sharing various teachings from the Quran (in its translated-into-English formats) to further help those who are
wondering how the Taliban — or any of the “terrorist-type” of Muslims — could possibly do the things they do in the name of their religion or their God.
While I could never, and do not, suggest or advocate that what they do in following those beliefs makes it okay or acceptable in any way
(just strike up a conversation with any non-militant Islamist and ask them what they think of that behavior), understanding them is a step in the right direction. (In other words, it will help explain how certain Christians, some of whom we may now know as saints, did what they felt they had to do and were willing to die for their faith, just as the Taliban and other terrorists, from our point of view, do what they do and are more than willing to die for their cause.)
Religion, in that regard, is somewhat of a funny thing—making some people violent or vengeful for their God, and others, peace-loving,
kind and loving to be more like the God they believe in. Reading the Old Testament, for example, if taken literally, could seem to give the
God whom many of us believe in, a bad name, just as we may feel the same way about the literal reading of the Quran.
Join me next week for several “living” examples from the Quran.
(Most of the background and history of the Taliban was found online with no personal attribution given and was used to write this column, while other statements, regarding Islam, were found within the English translations of several different copies of the Quran found on my bookshelf.)
I am going to present a few passages from the Quran to show just what it is that some Quran-following Muslims believe and practice. Again, bear in mind that I can only present these passages in English, even though I have the Quran in several different translations by just as many translators.
In one book, under Surah 4, The Women, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (the translation that has been deemed the most perfect of all the English translations of the Quran as of 2003, at least according to Sayed Asgar A. Razwy), we have No. 84, which states: “Then fight in Allah’s cause—you are held responsible only for yourself—and rouse the Believers. It may be that Allah will restrain the fury of the Unbelievers; for Allah is the strongest in might and in punishment.” First, we see that God is telling the Believers of Islam to fight in his cause and not to worry about anyone except themselves; it also encourages them to get other followers of Islam (the Believers) to go and do likewise. Then, it suggests (may be) that God will hold back the hand of the attackers (the Unbelievers, the non-muslims), suggesting that God is on the side of the Believers (Muslims) and will aid their efforts and punish those who rise against them with both earthly and beyond-life suffering. Surah 2, The Heifer, states in item 216, “Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you.
But Allah knows, and you know not.” Surah 3, Al-’Imran, No. 85, If anyone desires a religion other than he Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good.)
84. So fight in the cause of God; you are responsible only for yourself. And rouse the believers. Perhaps God will restrain the might
of those who disbelieve. God is Stronger in Might, and More Punishing.
85. Whoever intercedes for a good cause has a share in it, and whoever intercedes for an evil cause shares in its burdens. God keeps watch
over everything. 86. When you are greeted with a greeting, respond with a better greeting, or return it. God keeps count of everything.
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at maramistribune@gmail.com.

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