Afghanistan: Corruption and Religion

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October 6, 2005: It appears that the Afghan government has managed to successfully win over most of the country's mullahs - the traditional interpreters of Sharia Law. In January, the government arranged for mullahs who went on the Hadj - the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all Moslems are required to make if able - to preach support for the government and more tolerant brands of Islam, a practice that worked so well that it is to be repeated for the upcoming Hadj in February.

The government has also been supporting its own madrassas - religious schools - with a curriculum that includes more secular subjects and a more liberal instruction than that found in most traditional religious schools, many of which were funded by foreign organizations masquerading as Islamic charities.

October 5, 2005: The arrest, yesterday, of senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi, by Pakistani security forces was, to use the old Marxist phrase, "no accident." The Pakistani action was almost certainly in response to recent fairly severe criticism by Afghan President Karzai regarding Pakistan's apparent inability - or perhaps deliberate unwillingness - to really crack down on Islamist radicals. The Islamists have many sympathizers in the Pakistani government and security forces, who provide a measure of security. Karzai's public blast seems to have forced the issue, at least in the case of Hakimi. Whether this arrest indicates a serious change in the Pakistani commitment to crack down on the religious radicals or merely a sop to global opinion remains to be seen.

In a further effort to undercut the influence of foreign Islamist "charities," the Afghan government has been trying to provide better distribution of food and clothing for the indigent. Corruption is a major problem, and the Islamic radicals have an edge because they tend to be less corrupt. A very common crime is stealing goods intended for the poor, who are the least able to fight against the crime.

 

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