‘J is for jihad’

The British paper The Guardian has a fascinating look insde the Taliban in Afghanistan. In addition to clues about the military tactics and strategy of the fighters, it gave glimpse of the way that culture and faith are at the center of the conflict.

For instance, here is a member of the Taliban speaking of education.

“The villagers are good,” he said. “They feed us and give us shelter, even if we are 100 men, but sometimes their hearts are weak – they think that the foreigners bring development projects to help them, which is not true. This is why we have to forcefully stop these projects, to protect the villagers.”

What about schools, and education for the villagers? “We have no problem with education, it’s the curriculums that we have problems with. Under our [Taliban] government, when we taught the children the letter J it stood for jihad. Now it’s jar [meaning neighbour]. So we closed the schools, but we have madrasas for the children.”

As I read this, I am reminded of a recent post by Dan Dick in which he recounts being accosted for daring to suggest the science of evolution and Christianity are compatible. We Christians need to look around the room and see who is cheering us on when we start to adopt positions like that.

I also cannot read the Taliban’s thoughts about “proper” education without thinking less violent, but nonetheless fierce conflict over the minds of young people in the United States. I cannot help but hear a more muted rhetoric by adults in our country concerned about what children are learning and who is teaching them. Some of the faithful sound too much like the Taliban for my comfort and some of our secular advocates speak too much of children as future productive workers. We look at children and see tools for our own ambitions or recruits for our own causes or workers in our economy.

How much better would we all be if children were not viewed as a resource to be fought over?