Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: The curse of Talibanised Islam is spreading

The West only woke up when those planes crashed into the Twin Towers

The Independent

Published: 11 September 2006

On 10 September 2001 I wrote in The Independent: "... the US uses the Taliban, Iraq's President Saddam and others as excuses for its dangerous foreign policies. The Taliban is the bastard child of the Cold War in Afghanistan ... It is responsible for extreme desolation. Girls and women are being beaten, oppressed, denied health and education, hanged and stoned for the smallest transgressions." I called on Muslims to condemn the evil regime and for power brokers to act. They had, after all, done the right thing in Kosovo and quelled human rights abuses in Bosnia. (Anti-Western Muslims ignore how Nato fought against Christian Serbs to protect Muslim lives.) Here was a situation screaming for our help, a warning against continuing indifference.

Two reasons pushed me to write such prescient words hours before the al-Qa'ida attacks on the US. I read Taliban by Ahmed Rashid, a brilliant journalist who has reported on Afghanistan for 20 years and I was alerted by a flurry of insistent, persistent calls and letters from human rights; activists in India and Pakistan, friends I have known for many years who said they had never before seen such state-endorsed brutality against females of all ages. There was a third reason too. I feel a romantic attachment to the place as a Shia Ismaili Muslim. Our sect (which initiated suicide killers in the 11th century in Persia then ditched the wasteful tactic) had been peacefully present in Afghanistan for centuries, as had other Shia followers and whirling Sufis. There was no unholy authoritarianism in the country until the Taliban took over.

The Taliban killed that relatively open society and fertilised the soil with blood and bile which grew murderous fanaticism and drew warriors like Bin Laden. His malevolent network had already destroyed lives in parts of Africa. The West, however, only woke up to mind about Afghanistan when those planes crashed into the Twin Towers.

Ever since, almost all decisions and steps taken by the men who run the world have rebounded. Vain and ignorant crusaders, they have been worse in their ineptitude than wickedness. Bush and Blair have strengthened and emboldened al-Qa'ida and now its dozens of surrogates who did not exist before.

Cheerleaders of US neo-imperialism still believe their missions are accomplished and that doubters are a treacherous distraction. I met one of them last week, the writer William Shawcross who said in May this year that we were "winning" in Iraq. He acts like a cross cobra if you suggest that all is not well with the Bush/Blair "war on terror". There are many such ferocious optimists who refuse to look at the dystopia before them.

Islamicist-terrorist factory farms flourish like never before in the UK, European cities, North America, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, north African nations, South-east Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and some South American countries. I am not blaming Western allies for the dastardly crimes and ambitions of al-Qa'ida or the sectarian killers in Pakistan and Iraq.

I do say our leaders are responsible for failing to understand the challenges, or the consequences for enlightened and progressive politics of the violence they unleash. The US approved bombardment of Lebanon by Israel; renewed and defiant use of Guantanamo Bay and even worse secret American torture camps will raise a new crop of support for Bin Laden's gruesome ideology. Osama is now one of the most popular names for newborn boys across the Muslim world.

The Taliban are back, further wounding the imbroglio that is Afghanistan today. Battles rage in the south; British soldiers die every day. Nato claims to have blasted to death 94 enemy combatants. Teachers are decapitated in front of their pupils to discourage education. Once again music, chess, the radio, perfume, joy itself is banned (though you are still allowed to smell roses) and female persecution is even worse than in 2001. This hard, anti-female, anti-human Islam is diffusing through the globe.

Those we elected to save us from this spread seem incapable of responding with humanity when confronted by genuine injustices suffered by Muslims the world over (because in some places our politicians are complicit in the oppression) and are unable to stop the curse of Talibanised Islam.

We move inexorably towards more insecurity, carnage and tragedy and possibly another world war (which may have started already just as the First World War did, in bits, slowly and incompetently). And the band keeps up false cheer, plays on, reassures us we are "triumphant" over the forces of darkness.