BY AMER G. ZAHR
The Progressive Pen
Published June 10, 2001
We have all heard the recent chilling reports of what the Taliban has ordered upon the local Hindu population: Forcing them to wear distinctive badges, externally revealing their religious identity.
Human rights groups, the United Nations and most of the international community have expressed outrage at the measure, while the Taliban government has defended the move by answering that it has undertaken the measure in order to protect the local Hindu community from strict Islamic laws enforced by both covert and overtpolice. Many have likened the measure to the Nazi practices that forced European Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing before and during World War II. And the linkage is interesting, on so many levels.
But before I get to that, let"s weed this out a bit more and break it down to its bare essentials. What the Taliban is attempting to create is quite simple. Their ultimate goal seems to be the establishment of some kind of Muslim supremacist state where the only group that is afforded any kind of civil rights would belong to the Muslim majority.
Of course, the only way to do this is to become utterly and terribly racist, making archaic laws that serve only to dehumanize other people, whatever minority is the target of this political marginalizing. Finally, perhaps the Taliban"s most disturbing characteristic is that it commits these acts of civil abuse and horror under the guise of Islam, in turn bringing upon itself the criticism of many Muslims worldwide who do not want the Taliban committing these repulsive acts in their names.
This whole episode is so disturbing and unique that it has almost no parallel in the world today. I said almost.
I can think of only one other regime that subjugates an indigenous ethnic minority purely on the basis of its belonging to the "wrong" religious group. I can think of only one other state that functions with basically no solidly declared and recognized international boundaries. I can think of only one other state that has sought and is still seeking to rid itself of a nagging minority that is stubbornly clinging to its land and demanding its rights. I can think of only one other country that has an equal and utter contempt for international law and basic human rights. And finally, I can think of only one other country that commits its acts on this world stage all in the name of an entire religious group. I am, of course, speaking of Israel.
Israel and the Taliban, I am sure, despise each other. But I see siblings fighting all the time. On an ideological level, they are blood brothers. The goals are the same. Both began their political escapades with complete and absolute violence, all the while seeking to create a purely Muslim or Jewish state. And both are now resorting to political tactics. In other words, when they have realized that they cannot simply expel and/or kill those who do not fit into their political equation, they employ state sponsored racism in hopes that the native minority will simply give up, abandon all attempts to achieve any sort of equality, and finally flee.
Are there nuances? Sure. But on a fundamental level, they are insignificant. What we have in each case is textbook ethnic supremacy, forced upon local indigenous populations who have as much, if not more, of a right to their land and rights as the ruling majority. Their main difference, of course, lies in their image to the world. In a media marketplace where Muslims are routinely and conveniently made into terroristic villains, the Taliban is an excuse for even heightened racism.
On the other hand, in a world where the only superpower is the $5 billion a year patriarch of Israeli brutality and occupation, Israel gets off scot-free.
Israel and the Taliban are attempting to suppress the inalienable right of human dignity, robbing individuals of their own pride and honor. Such behavior cannot go unnoticed by an international community that claims to have any conscience at all.
Amer G. Zahr"s column runs every other Monday. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.