Friday, January 06, 2006

Myth Building

Last month I wrote about Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, an Afghan journalist who was sentenced to two years in jail for writing "anti-Muslim" articles in his magazine. Nasab questioned whether it was acceptable to cut off the hands of thieves and suggested that evidence given by a woman should be given equal weight to that of a man in court proceedings (currently a woman's evidence is judged to be half as important as that of a man). He also argued that it might not be necessary for man to punish a person for converting from Islam to another religion; he suggesting that perhaps God would be better placed to pass judgement on these matters. Outrageous, I'm sure you'll agree.

Nasab has now been freed on appeal but still faces a six month suspended sentence for his "crimes".
The local court in Kabul has freed Nasab following his apology, “said Mawlavi Fazal Ahmad Manawi, deputy for the Supreme Court, adding that Nasab has promised that he would not repeat such acts in future.
Freedom is on the march...

Compare and contrast
URIN (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs project), December 2005
Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country. Under a revised March 2004 media law signed by President Hamid Karzai, content deemed insulting to Islam is banned. Penalties for contravening the law were left vaguely worded - leaving open the possibility of punishment in accordance with Shariah.
Dick Cheney (Neo-conservative project), December 2005
We are proud to count Afghanistan as a free country, a fellow democracy, and a friend of the United States of America.
This is how myths are built. You say what you want people to believe and then repeat it endlessly* until it becomes received wisdom and beyond question. A free country? Afghanistan is still a very long way from being a free country. There are worrying signs that Islamic theocracy is once again on the march in Afghanistan. Not that you'll often find the mainstream media bothering to bring that fact to your attention though.

* Eg, Condi, September 2005. "Today... the Afghans again demonstrated their commitment to build a free country with national democratic institutions and an improving quality of life." You could make a very long list if you had the inclination.

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