Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, May 11th, 2021

Extremism and Cultural Restrictions Take Their Toll

The rights and freedoms of people in general and Afghans in particular are at stake in the wake of religious extremism and cultural restrictions. Radical ideologues and cultural traditionalists trample upon the rights and dignity of individuals in one way or another. Radicalism and traditionalism are highly prominent in Afghanistan taking their toll on people’s fundamental rights, including their rights to life.
In other words lack of tolerance has narrowed the room for a harmonious co-existence. Religious extremists show no patience towards one’s faith and beliefs and seek to impose their warped mind on people with the barrel of gun.
Dogmatic beliefs and lack of tolerance have led to unmitigated violence and bloodshed. That is to say, the ongoing regional violence roots from the dogmatic beliefs of religious extremists. For example, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and other terrorist networks are running the war for religious reasons. Religious extremists claim that only they are on the right path and other individuals either die or follow their ideology. Such a mindset will sow the seeds of discord and foment war.
To foist their radical ideology on people, the hardliners are widely involved in militancy and terrorist attacks in the region and show no iota of mercy to men, women and children. Currently, civilian casualty is one of the serious issues which make international headlines. People are killed on a large scale on the grounds of their religious beliefs. For instance, the ISIL group enslaved, sold and raped thousands of Yazidi women (Yazidis are a majority Kurdish-speaking religious group) in Iraq who were regarded as “sex slaves” and “this narrative has stereotyped Yazidi women as passive victims of mass rape at the hands of perpetrators presented as the epitome of pure evil”.
The Taliban’s harsh practices against Afghan nation also stem from their radical ideology. They kill Afghans, especially civilians including women and children, in cold blood. The Taliban’s regime – founded in Afghanistan in September 1996 and toppled by the US-led Northern Alliance in December 2001 – ruled Afghanistan with the barrel of gun and spilled streams of blood. In other words, Afghans, mainly the Shiite minority group, sustained heavy casualties under the Taliban on the basis of their religious beliefs.
The misogynistic mindset of the Taliban took its toll on Afghan women, who were not allowed to participate in social, educational, cultural, political and economic activities. The Taliban treated women as pariahs and considered them as an object to simply satiate the carnal desire of men. They discriminated women on the basis of their gender and encroached on their rights and liberties to a great extent. During the Taliban’s regime, Afghan women had to be dressed in burqa, a head-to-toe covering, and chaperoned. Violence against women was widespread but their voice fell on deaf ears. Women were treated as an inferior creature and had to be subject to men. Hence, dogmatic beliefs and radical ideology will lead to the gross violation of human rights across the globe.  
Cultural restrictions and traditional cultures will impede women from participating in social, cultural and political issues which is against religious tenets and sound mind. For example, women were barred from driving car in Saudi Arabia for many years. For defying prohibition and taking the wheel in the Saudi Capital Riyadh, some women were arrested and some others were fired from their jobs. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman lifted the prohibition in September 2017.
After all, Saudi women still face strict cultural restrictions. Without the permission of men, they are not allowed to apply for passports, travel abroad, get married, open a bank account, start certain businesses, get elective surgery and leave prison.
In Afghanistan, cultural restrictions and traditional customs also curtail women’s freedoms on a large scale, which is not only contrary to religious tenets but also to Afghan Constitution. Women are the casualty of the tribal code of conduct and conservative mindset which hold strong sway in tribal belts. Culturally, women are not allowed to play their role in social, economic and political activities in remote areas. In some cases, some women are tortured in desert court – mainly in the Taliban-dominated areas – by the verdict issued by tribal council that has no legal basis. Traditional custom overrides religious tenets in tribal structure of Afghanistan in many cases and people are mostly tradition-bound. Worst of all, they paint their narrow-mindedness with the brush of religion and attribute their own mentalities to religious principles, which is a strong blow to religion.
To sum up, violent practices which result in the violation of human rights is one of the serious issues before modern world and this will challenge the unity and harmony of nations. To alleviate one’s pain and anguish, mitigate violence and carnage and promote the spirit of peaceful coexistence, human societies need to step forward to build “a community of shared future for mankind” and practice upon moral code and international principles.