I understand the Taliban says women will now be allowed to work and to go to school.
I also understand they are guaranteeing press freedom within limits defined by the aviodance of character assassination.
From within my admittedly little informed mind, I then asked, if they are going to adhere to those two pillars of liberal society, if I'm using the right term, then how are they different from the Western civilization I understand they see themselves as an alternative to?
Instead of this perpetual fighting to force yourselves on people, why not present your beautiful visions for social development and persuade people to vote for you?
People are struck by the
Taliban's resilience, but resilience to what greater good of the Afghan people?
The guns they are using, the communications systems they employ, the vehicles they drive, are all products of Western ingenuity, enabled by hard won changes in Western society that enabled those innovations.
People paid with their lives and their liberty for the freedom to think and create that took Western societies from the religion encased world of the Middle Ages to its current scienitific and technological dominance and general position in the global knowledge space as well as the social and economic freedoms and empowerments that makes the West the most advanced in all indices of human development, in spite of their inadequacies.
None of the structures that define modernity in a global sense is the outcome of non-Western societies talk less Islamic cultures.
True, Africa and particularly Asia and the Arab and Persian worlds have played strategic roles in the foundations of science and it's relationship to technology, as well as developing sophisticated learning systems and complex writing well before
Europe but it was in Europe that these global possibilities, in harmony with Europe's own native achievements, achieved the highest synthesis humanity has reached so far, achievements taken further by Europe's North American cultural satellites, particularly the US.
Human history is best understood as the development of a single group of people, demonstrating qualities that define humanity as different from other species on Earth, qualities mediated by diverse cultures, yet fundamentally the same.
All peoples have religion. How does it contribute to quality of life, is the question.
I'm not impressed by claims of superrority of value over Western societies as defined by secularism and liberal democratice culture as these claims of superiority may be advanced by advocates of Islam.
The groups fighting globally to advance their Islamic visions are uniformly savages, massacerers of innocents, throwbacks to the more barbaric periods of human existence when power is won by force rather than by persuasion, people unable to convince others of the quality of their vision and persuade people to give the Islamic devotees a chance to lead them but insist on forcing compliance through fear, making people fear for their lives by killing those who don't see things their way, from Africa to the Middle East to Asia, Boko Haram to Al Shabbab to Al Qaeda to the Taliban to ISIS, they are all the same-"accept us or die."
Most human beings don't want to live like that. It enhances people's sense of worth if they are allowed to decide who leads them. It strenthens the sense of life's value and encourages cooperation towards the common goals that unite a community.
The West first developed this vision of common decision making about community leadership to it's current levels.
It was also in the West that, to the best of my knowledge, women were first allowed to vote and generally participate in running public society at the scale of participation seen today, an achievement won largely by generations of self sacrificing struggle by Western women, struggle even unto the sacrifice of their lives.
Are visions of Islamic society offering something better than this model of choosing one's leaders through opportunities open to all citizens?
There is much talk in Islam of divine revelation, of commandments from God about how human beings should live, ideas mediated by Muhammed, the founder of Islam and presented in the Koran and collections of Muhammed's sayings.
Claims of divine revelation and guidance are widespread across the world.
The Yoruba origin Ifa system of knowledge claims the world began at Ife, and have their own scriptures, ese ifa, representing wisdom mediated by divine sources.
Judaism references the Garden of Eden as the beginning of humanity and the Talmud, among other scriptures, their own compilations of divine wisdom, which, in turn, provides the foundations of the Christian Bible, another book described by it's devotees as divinely inspired.
I'm not aware of any foundational religious texts, except perhaps the ese ifa, more extensive than those of the Hindus, from the Rig Veda to the Mahabarata, the Ramayana and the Upanishads.
Most, perhaps all societies have claims of divine wisdom and texts, oral or written, believed as embodying this wisdom.
The question is-how do these beliefs advance the quality of human life?
Is human life improved by the Islamic law policy of cutting off the hands of thieves? Are the thieves ' life circumstances thereby improved, making them less likely to steal?
In being dettered from stealing by losing a hand, are they thereby more productive members of society or are they now handicapped and less likely to benefit society?
In stoning to death two married people who commit adultery, as I am informed is enjoined by Islamic law, are the reasons for that adultery thereby addressed, the paychological, interpersonal and physical issues and drives that inspired the act in the first place thereby examined and acted upon?
Does that stoning to death assist any soul searching on the part of all parties involved, leading to better understanding of questions of compatibility, mutual responsibility and individual needs?
I see Muslims can be particularly sensitive to their beliefs being addressed in ways different from their approval, leading in numerous cases to killing others for those views the Muslims find abhorrent.
Such Muslims thereby persist in attitudes it's sister religion Christianity has moved on from.
But really, what are religious beliefs if not ideas no one can prove, no one can validate, referring to realities beyond the reach of most people, an alternate universe claimed by believers to be the source of reality?
If God exists, how does killing or brutalising people who don't believe in him going to improve his own existence?
All the ideas depicting centring of human well being I have described above are represented by Western liberal culture and represent the most advanced understanding of human possibility yet reached, in my view.
Islam is centred on the prophethood of Muhammed, described as the last prophet.
What are we to say of the head of the US based religious group ECKANKAR, described by the group as the only direct representative of the Creator of the universe, a position established by the group's founder Paul Twitchell, a US citizen who made this claim for himself and the others following in leadership of the school. Their beautiful books written by Twitchell, described as divinely inspired, advance this view.
It's great to have a faith, but it's only one of many, and no more necessarily valid than all the others.
The question is- how does that faith improve human lives?
Can you convince others to share your faith through the quality of your own life and it's impact on other's lives?
What is the response to this question by the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and other Islamic groups trying to force others to live by their faith?
Until such questions are taken seriously in a sustained manner accross generations in world societies, the West, which has long built itself significantly on such questions will remain the cultural point or gravitation for most people, regardless of the system of government in their own countries.