This was a woman who dedicated her life to making the lives of other women better.
As a female police officer, Malalai is able to speak directly to women who are victims of violence. Recently, she started investigating a spate of suspicious murders and cases of abuse involving women in Kandahar. "These are things that I do that men just won't," she says. "I remember this one case, when I knocked on the door but the children would not let me in. From under the cover of my burka, I told them I was their long-lost aunt. They opened the door." Malalai (who says she often wears a burka to disguise her identity) searched the house and found a woman and her son chained by their hands and feet. They'd survived for 10 months on crusts of bread and cups of water. The woman, a widow, was handed over by her in-laws to her brother-in-law after her husband passed away. The brother married her and divorced her, a major taboo that guaranteed she would be a social outcast for the rest of her life. When she went to pick up her belongings, the brother-in-law forced her and her son into a cage and held them captive.This was a woman who gave her life trying to make the lives of women and children in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban may threaten me," Malalai says. "But because of stories like rescuing this woman, the women and children love me."
It is crucial to note that this act occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, a time of fasting and prayer and reflection, a time when Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance into the future, ask for help in refraining from everyday evils and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
So it would seem the Taliban's interpretation of Islam is somewhat different from most practicing Muslims.
However, it seems that as desperate as the Taliban and other terrorist groups are to proclaim their interpretation of their religion as the only interpretation, there are so many people here in America who are equally eager to adopt this viewpoint. How else to explain the zeal with which certain political figures proclaim terrorism as synonymous with Islam? How else to explain the mass distribution of a Muslim bashing DVD in certain swing states last week? How else to explain attacks on American Muslims and mosques like the one which recently occurred in Dayton, Ohio?
If the Taliban had their way, no one would fight for the women and children of Afghanistan. But here in America, there are people who would target those same women and children on the basis of their religious beliefs.
At a certain point, one can no longer remain silent. Whatever you believe in your heart is irrelevant if you quietly sit back and allow others to stir up hatred and division in order to benefit. At a certain point, it isn't just about picking a side, it is about accepting responsibility for everyone else on your side as well.
Almost a year ago, I wrote about a novel I would not be writing and about my fears that it would not take much for Americans to allow their fellow Americans to be imprisoned for being the wrong color, worshiping the wrong god, and having the wrong political opinions. I forgot about these thoughts for awhile. However, for the past month, I have been thinking of them once again. It seems like the religious extremists are gaining ground everywhere and we are just quietly sitting back and allowing it to happen. It seems that as long as people feel that they are safe and secure and perceive that the government has their best interests at heart, they will ignore any and all manner of violations to the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. When we stop standing up for the rights of others, when we stop risking our necks in order to protect our neighbors, that is when the terrorists win.