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“There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” Walter Benjamin
Today I received an update on the status of the Ahmad Baba library in Timbuktu following news that it might have been torched as the rebels retreated.
Dr Shamil Jeppie, who heads the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project (www.tombouctoumanuscripts.org) and is also associate director of the Huma (Institute for humanities in Africa) University of Cape Town, released the statement below. It is reassuring until further eyewitness testimony confirms or denies what he has learnt at this point.
President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt should scrap his tough guy image and appetite for power grabs. In canceling the decree that gave him sweeping powers, he took a step in the right direction tonight. But he is not out of the political woods yet. He should show that he cares more about Egypt than he cares about his own power. If not, his days are numbered, and Egypt’s future is in danger.
Army rule and authoritarianism lurk in the shadows. Military circles are already rumbling. If Morsi threatens to enforce marshal law in future, he will only hasten his own decline. Yes, the opposition are a cantankerous and obstructionist bunch of losers, but it was Morsi who handed them a cause and made them look like winners.
First Morsi should get the word out to the opposition that he is serious about forming a government of national unity. He should give people like Egypt’s Conference party leader Amr Moussa, Constitution party founder Mohamed ElBaradei, and other key figures positions in his cabinet and use them optimally. ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, should be given a ministerial position to fast-track science and technology development so that Egypt can compete with India and China and create jobs. Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and past Arab League head, could be given the health ministry.
“The Taliban don’t oppose women’s education per se, they just oppose a Western, secular education for ANY Muslim. In addition, I understand that the Taliban justified the shooting [of Malala Yusufzai] using the Khidr reference from Surah 18 (The Cave) i.e. people with superior spiritual discernment can murder disobedient children who will only spread mayhem in the community if allowed to live.”
A reader of my blog posted the above comment on my website. I thank him for the information. His efforts attest to the virtues of crowd sourcing. The correspondence informed me how the Pakistan Taliban-think. I am, of course, generously assuming that the word ‘think’ has a place in the scorched-earth vocabulary of the Taliban. What scares me is how a twisted theology fuels their frenzy of maiming and murdering anyone who disagrees with their ideology and version of Islam. The Pakistani Taliban and their Afghan counterparts have destroyed secular schools, especially women’s schools and killed many young women, the most recent being the attempt on the life of education activist in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, Malala Yusufzai.
Here is the twisted theology of the Taliban, whose conduct truly tarnishes the image and reputation of Islam. The Qur’an has an allegorical story about an episode in the life of the Prophet Moses and his encounter with a mysterious figure called, Khidhr, the Evergeen One. Khidhr is famed for trying to teach Moses the hidden meaning of things in the world. Things have an obvious meaning and a more mysterious account. Only God and those whom God had entrusted with the mysterious meanings of things can grasp things beyond the apparent. Even prophets deputed by God do not have access to such insights. Therefore, Khidhr is unique in the world and plays an allegorical role; nothing he says can be taken literally. Even the Prophet Muhammad did not claim Khidhr-like powers and he always played by the rules. Moses too was outraged by the conduct of Khidhr and finally parted ways with the Evergreen One.
What angered Moses is that Khidhr fixed a wall belonging to a community who refused to feed the two of them; then he sank a boat belonging to owners who gave them a ride and finally, he also killed a youth. All these events outraged Moses. Khidhr then disclosed to Moses that his actions were not without reason and provided explanations. He fixed the wall, he said, because a treasure belonging to underaged kids was buried there and they were not ready to receive it; the boat, he said, was to be confiscated by a tyrant king on the other shore therefore sinking it was a way to preserve it for its owners who could later dredge it for their use. And the youth, explained, was killed because he would adopt unbelief in adulthood, a prospect that would make his parents grieve and cause them pain. Hence, pre-emptive killing!
Khidhr serves as the omniscient eye of the Divine. But the things he talks about, are matters we do not understand and points to the mysterious ways in which the Divine acts in the world. That is the moral of the story: humility in the face of Divine omniscience and power. No one is required to imitate Khidhr in his acts. Instead, we are taught to be like Moses and be outraged by such unlawful conduct and part ways with folk like Khidhr.
Never in all of Islamic history has any theologian or jurist ever justified pre-emptive actions or deeds like killing someone without justifiable reason or confiscating property unlawfully from others. Anyone doing so will experience the full lash of the law. Anyone who claims to know what will definitively happen tomorrow already inhabits a dubious theological status. Anyone who kills someone today because he or she knows such a person is going to kill someone or hurt someone tomorrow is nothing but a despicable murderer.
So the Taliban claim to have superior spiritual insight? So they claim to be Khidhr-like? When did God announce that these miscreants are His emissaries? Who anointed them? If this is what they believe and how they justify their actions, then Muslims have an entire cabinet of theological verdicts to highlight their blasphemy.
A mysterious account in the Qur’an, described as the allegorical verses have been put in service of an evil cause. Many murderers hear voices in their heads and say that they were driven by these voice to commit their craven acts. This is just another crazed account of murderers wrapped in the language of Islamic theology. I trust that the people of Pakistan and elsewhere will see through this twisted ruse of using a Qur’anic story to justify the murder of innocents. These Taliban are not Khidhr, they are crazy.
My readers might have noticed that I was totally silent following the attempted assassination of the courageous young education activist Malala Yusufzai from the Swat region. I was silenced by a deep disgust at the deeds of these Pakistani Taliban criminals. Anger, outrage and depression do not explain my emotions. One part of me wished that a contingent of soldiers or vigilantes hunted down the miscreants and mete out a fate the criminals never ever contemplated. But I soon realized such anger solves little. Outpouring of support for Malala by senior generals were a good sign but the criminals are still at large. Only bringing them to book followed by an exemplary trial and a just punishment is what the world awaits. As Malala convalesces in a British hospital another ray of hope shone out of Pakistan. A court threw out the charges of blasphemy against Rimsha Masih, another young Christian girl tormented by a Muslim cleric we are told. We look forward to see the outcome of the trial of this cleric for making scurrilous charges and bringing Pakistan into disrepute. The wheels of justice move slowly but they define a character of a society. Right-thinking Pakistanis, I am sure, will think hard and long and address the causes as to why women are frequently and violently targeted in their society. Reform starts with the will and willingness of ordinary Pakistanis who opt for positive change. Commentators like myself will be more than willing to share the success of those activists with the world. These few events: the widespread condemnation of the Pakistani Taliban for their crimes and ending prosecution of a Christian girl on trumped up blasphemy charges, all give hope.
GOP chatter: Obama threw Israel under the bus? What about Israeli president insulting first US Black president?
RT @deanofcomedy: Even David Gergen saying that Romney speech was competent – Translation: Not good enough
Romney speech, solid, CNN’s David Gergen