One religion, two interpretations!

The 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly felt different for me than any I recent memory. During the prior 20 years, Afghanistan had attended the General Assembly meetings, and I, as an Afghan, was proud that after years of civil war and a period of darkness, my homeland was once again able stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries of the world. During these meetings, the Afghan delegation had talked about hope and a bright future of my people. In 2022, however, with the Taliban returning to power, a bitter and dark scenario was repeated in my country. Meanwhile, every day, women and girls faced increasing restrictions imposed by the ruling regime.

For me, covering the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly was not only important as a journalist but also as an “ambassador” and representative of the people of Afghanistan, especially the women of my country. I felt a duty to convey their pain to the world’s high-ranking officials as much as I could. On September 23, 2022, exactly 404 days had passed since the Taliban regime closed the gates of work and school to girls. The women of my country pleaded with the Taliban government to allow them to go to school again, but the rulers who put the mask of religion on their faces have turned a deaf ear and do not want to respond to this demand for the rights of girls and women. On the same day, while Afghan women were fighting for the right to go to school, I was surprised to see a scene where in a country of 156 million people, 91% of which are Muslims, a woman is sitting in the prime minister’s position and as the head of the ruling party who had all the powers of this country.

Islam is a religion of peace and justice but the Taliban is interpreting this wrongly. Instead, the Taliban is the group that is misrepresenting Islam. To my understanding, Islam stands for liberty and equality and respects the rights of all human beings, especially women! We should not have two separate and contradictory interpretations of Islam. Moreover, it is the responsibility of all the countries of the world, not only Islamic countries, to pressure the Taliban by every possible means to secure the rights of Afghan women and convince them to stop the systematic elimination of women from the society.

The main argument of the Taliban for the systematic removal of women from society has always been the need to support and protect women. This rationale has many dangerous consequences not only for women but also for families and society. This approach not only does not improve the situation, but also causes women, the majority of men, and the international community to hate the Taliban government and the religion of Islam.

When I see a Muslim woman in the pinnacle of power in many countries of the world (even Bangladesh, a muslim majority country) I am energized to believe that the struggle of the women of my country to get their rights is not impossible. While it will be a difficult and long path, one day we will also get our rights in Afghanistan.

ABOUT AUTHOR: Nazira Karimi is a journalist, television presenter, author, and entrepreneur from Afghanistan currently based in U.S. She reported for Afghanistan National Radio and TV, BBC, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Voice of America, and more until Kabul fell to the Taliban. She now owns and manages NK Media, a futuristic multimedia house for the Afghan community around the world. The Washington Post in 2001 called her “a young Barbara Walters.”
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