Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, October 28th, 2021

The World Cultural Development Day and Cultural Challenges in Afghanistan

21 May, is coincided with the World Cultural Development Day or the World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. This day was designated by UNESCO in 2001 to enhance the potential of culture as a means of achieving prosperity, sustainable development, and global peaceful coexistence. Marking such days will not only foster open-mindedness and cultural diversity at the national level but also play an essential role in intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development in global level. In fact, the day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity, cultural weakness and help us how to live peacefully in today’s global village by highlighting the required changes. Availing of this opportunity, we need to keep a bit of distance from the politicized and turbulent situation of the country by talking about cultural status in Afghanistan. However, there is an inseparable border between cultural and political lives.
Unfortunately, the four decades of war and violence have not only destroyed the economic infrastructure but also created numerous cultural challenges in the country. These challenges include insecurity, religious and political extremisms, political and economic dependence, tribalism and lack of meritocratic culture, unfavorable anti-development traditions, the existence of totalitarian, dictatorial governments, and the geopolitical and geo-economic confinement of the country after the closure of the International Silk Road which led to historical isolation of Afghanistan. However, we have seen some positive changes in the last two decades such as relative changes in freedom of expression, rights of minority groups, changes in the educational arena, women’s rights and participation, and culture of talks instead of war and violence. Unfortunately, these changes and achievements are very fragile and subject to numerous threats and challenges.
The first and the biggest threats to cultural development are insecurity and the launch of successive target attacks on cultural and educational centers in the country. The ignorant elements and terrorist fighters have always targeted well-known scholars and educational centers which are considered as the heart of cultural development in the country. Although cultural and educated groups of the country have always invited them with offering smiles and flowers, they responded with guns and weapons. They targeted educational and cultural centers in different ways such as igniting, poisoning, car explosion, throwing grenades, and so on. Hence, Thousands of girls and boys are leaving education and the country due to unstable security conditions and unknown future while the government of Afghanistan and the claimants of humanitarianism have never been successful in the removal of extremism and violence in the country.
The next barriers to cultural development are tribal culture in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, we have never realized that we live in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society that naturally people are loyal to their ethnic and cultural values. So, when one tribe wants to impose its values on others, they will not only be refused but also led to social and cultural gaps and hatreds in the country. Unfortunately, still, some circles are attempting to monopolize economic and political power within the country. As a consequence, it not only holds back to cross from the medieval age conditions but also waste the energy and talents of young intellectuals a on how to knock out their ethnic rivals instead of addressing social and economic issues of the country. However, this issue is, somewhat, decreased in the last two decades as all major branches of ruling religion and language are legally recognized by the national constitution, but the return of the Islamic Emirate has seriously created fears and worries in the country.  The people of Afghanistan have no good memory of the dogmatic approaches of the Taliban during their rule two decades ago.
The other factor which acts as barriers against cultural development is the lack of moderate and single interpretation from Islamic teachings. The friends and enemies addicted to misuses of religion as political tools in the country. This issue has not only led to armed violence but also led to growing opposition between traditionalists and modernist cultural groups in the country. The religious groups of society blame technocrats as westernized people who have no deep understanding of culture and spiritual life. On the other hand, the modernist people called traditionalists resilient and ignorant factors playing a hindering role versus modernization and development.
Unfortunately, neither the modernists have understood that we live in a country with 99% of the Muslim, and nor the traditionalist groups have realized the requirement of the modern era. In fact, we need a moderate interpretation from Islam and modernization appropriate with the local and modern requirements. The traditionalist group should learn lessons from the fate of dinosaurs when it failed to adapt to the requirement of nature; it entirely extinct and now no more exist on the surface of the planet. On the other hand, the modernist group must understand that the pure teaching of Islam is not a joke. Eliminating the pure teachings of religions is not possible neither scientifically logical nor testable. Therefore, no radical views will work in countries such as Afghanistan except expanding violence and hatred in the country.
Given these and other challenges, Afghanistan needs to the establishment of a tolerant and moderate cultural strategy. Otherwise, it will never reach lasting peace in the near future as many of the political crises are fueled by the same issue. Most the politicians are seeking peace in Doha, Istanbul, and also other places while no foreign country and no political agreement can guarantee lasting peace without cultivating a pluralistic culture in the country.  The biggest problem of current tribal and radical culture is being alien to rationality and coexistence.  In fact, the tribal and religious extremism is not only alien with rationality but also vulnerable to fraud, corruption, violence, violations of law and belief in conspiracy theory, and more importantly disunity in the country.