A Glimpse Inside the Taliban

afghan womenThis week, the New York Times is doing a 5-story spread on a man’s experience being kidnapped, reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The spread, entitled “Held by the Taliban,” focuses on his very real day-to-day thoughts of being held.

This part of the world has always interested and intrigued me, mostly because of the passionate feelings that are felt there, that I don’t seem to relate to at all. Much of the world inside is a world designed to keep outsiders out and I am by many definitions an outsider. His experience is both human and journalist. Despite the fact that his life is at risk and he has a wife and family at home, he manages to glean interesting and pertinent information from his captors.

I always wonder if this is really what the American government hopes for – that people will have these experiences and report back – a somewhat less dangerous front-line intelligence gathering. This world is, 8 years after 9/11, still confusing and out of reach for the everyday American. People don’t want to associate themselves with being in denial – but we are.

We are in denial that people live in these places. Normal people born and raised with the Taliban and militants surrounding them. But this I believe is not the most important detail. I instead clung to much of the story that involved why these people turn to militant Islam.

Having studied Islam at both the high school and college level, I have a great amount of interest and respect for it as a religion. Its parallels with Judaism are also interesting to me. MOstly, I have a great admiration for the dedication and good will of Muslims across the world, and the role that they play in global diversity.

All of these strategies lead us to read these stories as simply scary situations we hope not to find ourselves in. What we really have to think about is what these stories mean for those that make the policy, and make the decisions. Are they merely maps being drawn in the sand for Afghanistan troops, or is there more that can be learned?

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