Finding your inner Talib(an)

Don’t look for the Taliban in the woods. Look inwards. A Talib is lurking in there waiting to be released. The Taliban stalking the valley of Swat represent our collective soul.

Faiz Jan September 10, 2010
Sitting atop a mound and looking at the melee in the dusty streets, a student asks his teacher a question.

Student: Who are the Taliban?

Teacher: They are people with long beards (some with fake ones) and long locks. Guns are slung from their shoulders, their hands are full of grenades and they wear jackets that can blow people around them to smithereens.

Student: Why do they kill people and themselves?

Teacher: They want to Islamize society and the people.

Student: Through terror?

Teacher: They know no other way of doing it.

Student: Why do the people of Swat deserve such brutal treatment?

Teacher: They used to listen to music and shave their beards. Women would roam the city unchaperoned. And disgustingly, their daughters would go to school as well their sons.

Student: But what is the wrong with all these things ?

Teacher: Music appeals to human senses. It encourages the imagination and and in your imagination one can go to any extreme. Music makes people soft and mild - unlike the rigid Taliban who know no gentility.

By shaving their beards the people used to look smart and clean making the Taliban look even uglier. Now that everyone else looks shabby it is difficult to differentiate between who is friend and who is foe. The new rule also saves citizens from the labour of rushing into the washroom every morning to clean up.

Student: What about unaccompanied women in the markets?

Teacher: The Taliban say that women should not step out of their homes without a mehram. This is because anyone can ogle a woman who is alone. Is the woman responsible if a lecher accosts her? Of course! Men cannot see an unchaperoned woman and not ogle her. Don’t you know how difficult is for men to resist their amorous temptations?

Student:Got it! To keep the men on the straight and narrow, women should stay indoors because they test the passion of men folk. But suppose I got a skin infection. The doctor would prescribe medicine for sensitive skin. He would not prescribe something to block my pores or try to block out the air ...

Teacher: I don’t appreciate your analogy, young man!

Student: Fine. Why are the Taliban against schools?

Teacher: Simple. Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave. They want to first drive the people and then enslave them. Leading them or governing them creates too many problems. The Taliban would have to consider public opinion and be held accountable every three or four years. They may even face defeat in a peaceful way.

It is better to inhibit the mental growth of the population. This makes them easier to rule peacefully. Now all the Taliban have to do to maintain the peace is slit open the throats of a few wayward females. Women comprise over 50 per cent of our population. If they get an education it will become difficult for the men to control them.

Student: Why do women need to be controlled?

Teacher: Educated women who know too much about religion will fight for the education of their children and their own rights. This creates commotion in society and men may lose patriarchy. It is better to keep their wings clipped, their eyes gouged out and their hands and feet crippled.

Student: Why is there so much hatred against women?

Teacher: This is not hate. It is love. They want to possess them lock, stock and barrel. Had there been any hatred, Taliban men would not marry more than one woman. They want women to be tools for sex. If one woman does not satisfy a man another can serve him. When they see a woman in a street or market, their animal instinct drives them. That is why they don’t want their own wives and daughters to step out and mingle with others who share the same instinct. Freud calls it libido.

Student: Why doesn't anyone stand up to these men?

Teacher: Will Durant says that whenever there is a turning point in the history of a people we will always see a lofty character at the turn. We are passing through the worst of times. There are people who are few in numbers but who are hell-bent on dragging society by its hairs to take it back to the dark ages.

The Taliban view society and culture as a relic which must be preserved. Change is something that they do not like because their eyes are lodged in the back of their heads instead of being to the front and on both sides of the nose just beneath the eye-brows. As far as leaders are concerned, a leader is the epitome of social currents.

Student: What does that mean?

Teacher: An ideal society is just below mediocrity. Surprising it may sound, but this is what Bertrand Russell says. A person is an extension of his or her environment. There are always good and bad people in any society. Being feeble, a common man carries some good traits of his times; his fellows carry others. If a person is a paragon of the collective good—a good that others carry in piecemeal he becomes the leader.

So if we don’t see any leader at this critical juncture, it means that the pieces of those characteristics do not exist in society. If we don’t have the building blocks for a leader, how can we have one in whole. The Taliban are the replica of our collective character as well. Everyone of us carries a piece or two of the Talib and when these pieces come closer, a real Talib emerges on scene. They are not foreign; they are from within our ranks. While the armed forces bludgeon them and society makes more - the circus continues in one name or other.

Don’t look for the Taliban in the woods. Look inwards. A Talib is lurking in there waiting to be released sooner or later. Kill your own inner Talib and you will choke the channel that is feeding evil in to society. "To defeat Satan without one has to accept the Satan within," says Carl Jung, one of the greatest experts of human mind.

The Taliban stalking the valley of Swat represent our collective soul. You cannot change others but yourself. Your personal change is not individual: every person wears more than one mask at a given time.

So my friend, this is not the time to merely call a spade a spade but for soul searching.
Faiz Jan A lecturer at the University of Peshawar and former Edition in Charge of The Frontier Post
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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