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World Views: International Education of Women, ''Poetry of the Taliban'' (Oct 19, 2012)

Doctors in London say a teenage Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban is “doing very well.” In photos released today by the British hospital where she’s being treated, Malala Yousufzai appears with her eyes open and alert.

The shooting was an effort by the Taliban to silence the girl, who has spoken out for the right of girls to be educated.

Joshua Landis
, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said the education of women in the Middle East represents a larger struggle between Westernization, and what Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah calls authentic Islamic patriarchal values.

“Pakistanis are trying to say, ‘This is a human value, this has nothing to do with America,’” Landis said. “But of course, the Taliban is trying to say, ‘This is America, and this value of liberating women is a Western intrusion into our traditional society.’”

In January,
Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa graduated its first class of underprivileged girls since opening in 2007, and global security and comparative politics expert Rebecca Cruise said beyond liberation and human rights, education represents a development issue.

“So if we educate girls, that gives them the ability to earn more money,” Cruise said. “They then invest that money in their families and their communities.”

Author Alex Strick van Linschoten first traveled to Afghanistan as a tourist in 2004, and since then, he’s co-founded an online research and media-monitoring group to give a more prominent voice to local Afghan media, and worked as a freelance journalist in Kandahar, Syria, Lebanon and Somalia.

His most recent book,
Poetry of the Taliban, collects more than 200 works by poets who are part of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.

“Well, it is their voice, and it happens to be a voice which I think is important that we listen to in many ways,” Strick van Linschoten said.

Strick van Linschoten said the attention was drawn to only those poems that were anti-Western, and not the entire publication. He also described his research that focused on the differences between al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

“In many ways, we’ve been poorly-served by both our media organizations, and politicians,” Strick van Linschoten said. “Both of whom have been happy to lazily perpetuate this notion that all of these groups are the same, and they’re all Islamists fighting against us in different ways."


On Differences Between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban

“What we found while doing our research on this was essentially the two groups and organizations came from completely different backgrounds. They’re generationally distinct. The al-Qaeda senior leadership is a generation older than the Talibs who grew up in the 60’s and the 70’s in Afghanistan. Essentially, they have different agendas. The Taliban are, broadly speaking, a nationalist group concerned with things inside Afghanistan’s borders, and they don’t have much of an agenda outside. That’s changing a bit, but generally speaking the Taliban are a localized movement, and al-Qaeda is a global network.”

On Criticism That His Work Provides a Voice to Terrorists

“Just to label people as someone who we can’t understand in some way, or that these are terrorists so we can’t engage with them in some way, I think this is missing a big opportunity. The fact that these poems contain all sorts of things which have nothing to do with the violent conflict, and they’re about flowers, and love poems, and all of this kind of thing as well. The fact of the matter is the United States is engaged in negotiations with the Taliban. This is the interesting thing, obviously the publication of the book touched a real nerve with some people. Most of these negative and angry reviews were from people who’d never looked at the book, or had seen a copy even. They were just objecting to the very idea. Yeah, it complicates this picture when you start to think of the Taliban as people with families, and mothers, and friends, and all of these kinds of emotions, and a life as rich as our own. This starts to mess with our understanding of the conflict, and it’s not quite as black-and-white."

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