Forget Afghanistan... What Should We Do With Pakistan?

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Wed Nov 21 2001 - 14:11:20 MST

In Pakistan, It's Jihad 101
ESHAWAR, Pakistan

You need only spend an afternoon walking through the Storytellers' Bazaar here
in Peshawar, a few miles from the Afghan border, to understand that America
needs to do its business in Afghanistan eliminate Osama bin Laden and his
Taliban pro tectors as quickly as possible and get out of here. This is not
a neighborhood where we should linger. This is not Mr. Rogers's neighborhood.

What makes me say that? I don't know, maybe it was the street vendor who asked
me exactly what color Osama bin Laden T-shirt I wanted the yellow one with
his picture on it or the white one simply extolling him as the hero of the
Muslim nation and vowing "Jihad Is Our Mission." (He was doing a brisk
business among the locals.) Or maybe it was the wall poster announcing: Call
this phone number if you want to join the "Jihad against America." Or maybe it
was all the Urdu wall graffiti reading "Honor Is in Jihad" and "The Alliance
Between the Hunood [Indians] and Yahood [Jews] Is Unacceptable." Or maybe it
was the cold stares and steely eyes that greeted the obvious foreigner. Those
eyes did not say "American Express accepted here." They said "Get lost."

Welcome to Peshawar. Oh, and did I mention? This is Pakistan these guys are
on our side. Fat chance. This whole region of northwest Pakistan is really
just an extension of Afghanistan, dominated by the same ethnic Pashtuns that
make up the Taliban. This is bin Laden land. This is not a region where
America is going to sink any friendly roots. In part it's because the Pashtuns
here all, understandably, side with their brothers in Afghanistan; in part
it's because they were jilted once before by the Americans after the U.S.
just dropped Pakistan like a used hanky once the Soviets left Afghanistan. But
most important, it's because of the education system here.

On the way into Peshawar I stopped to visit the Darul Uloom Haqqania, the
biggest madrasa, or Islamic school, in Pakistan, with 2,800 live-in students
all studying the Koran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad with the hope of
becoming mullahs, or spiritual leaders. I was allowed to sit in on a class
with young boys, who sat on the floor, practicing their rote learning of the
Koran from holy texts perched on wooden holders. This was the core of their
studies. Most will never be exposed to critical thinking or modern subjects.

It was at once impressive and disquieting. It was impressive because the
madrasas provide room, board, education and clothing for thousands of
Pakistani boys who would otherwise be left out on the streets because of the
gradual collapse of Pakistan's secular, state education system. In 1978 there
were 3,000 madrasas in Pakistan; today there are 39,000. It was disquieting
because their almost entirely religious curriculum was designed by the Mogul
emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, who died in 1707. There was one shelf of science
books in the library largely from the 1920's.

The air in the Koran class was so thick and stale you could have cut it into
blocks and sold it like ice. A sign on the wall said this room was "A gift of
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia." The teacher asked an 8-year-old boy to chant a
Koranic verse for us, which he did with the beauty and elegance of an
experienced muezzin. What did it mean? It was a famous verse: "The faithful
shall enter paradise and the unbelievers shall be condemned to eternal

I asked one of the students, an Afghan refugee, Rahim Kunduz, age 12, what his
reaction was to the Sept. 11 attacks, and he said: "Most likely the attack
came from Americans inside America. I am pleased that America has had to face
pain, because the rest of the world has tasted its pain." And his view of
Americans generally? "They are unbelievers and do not like to befriend Muslims
and they want to dominate the world with their power."

The Darul Uloom Haqqania madrasa is famous because the Taliban leader, Mullah
Muhammad Omar, once attended it, as did many other top Taliban figures. Mullah
Omar never graduated, our guide explained, "but we gave him an honorary degree
anyway, because he left to do jihad and to create a pristine Islamic

As we were leaving, my Pakistani friend asked the school's rector a question
he had posed to me, which I couldn't answer: How come Americans are so good at
selling Coke and McDonald's to people all over the world, but can't sell their

"Because their policies are poisonous and their Coke is sweet," said Moulana
Samiul Haq.

I am all for reviewing our policies, but only the Pakistanis can rebuild their
schools so they meld modernity, Islam and pluralism. Bin Laden is a sideshow,
but one we must deal with. The real war for peace in this region, though, is
in the schools. Which is why we must do our military operation against bin
Laden quickly and then get out of here. When we return, and we must, we have
to be armed with modern books and schools not tanks. Only then might we
develop a new soil a new generation as hospitable to our policies as to our

Until then, nothing pro-American will grow here.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
non-sensory experience

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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