Skip to main content

Islam key to Afghan Dream

By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, Special to CNN
updated 7:25 PM EDT, Wed July 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Opinion: U.S. underestimates importance of Islam in making Afghanistan a better place
  • Authors say Islam establishes protection and preservation of life, and dignity for all
  • They say the U.S. should work with imams to improve lives in Afghanistan

Editor's note: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, one of the key figures in the plan for an Islamic center near ground zero, and author of "Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America." His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy, and Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential people of the world. Daisy Khan is executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and founder of WISE & Global Muslim Women's Shura Council.

(CNN) -- We watched in horror this week at the execution of an Afghan woman who was shot nine times while a crowd of roaring men who call themselves Muslim cheered and screamed. We were reminded of a similar tragedy that took place in 1999 in which a mother of five, clad in a blue burqa, was shot dead in a soccer stadium in Kabul. Both of these women were wrongfully accused of adultery, as there was no proof, evidence, fair trial, due process or justice.

The similarities between the two slayings signaled to us that not much has changed in Afghanistan in the decade since the United States first became involved there. When we Americans ask why we have failed in Afghanistan, we blame the Afghans' antiquated tribal practices and their hate of America's freedom, and most of all, we blame their religion: Islam.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Daisy Khan
Daisy Khan

Though we have said it over and over again, let us reiterate once more: The actions of these men were in absolute and supreme violation of God's laws, and Islam does not condone unmitigated violence of any kind. Period.

Manhunt under way for Taliban who shot woman in public execution

Though the U.S. declared the promotion of women's rights, human rights and democracy as its policy goals before invading Afghanistan, it would appear that all three were lost in our efforts to establish a "secular" democracy in an Islamic Republic.

When our government deployed our troops intending to eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban and establish a new government in Afghanistan, we took responsibility for the future of its people. Is it not tragic, after all the bloodshed and the billions of taxpayers' dollars spent, that there could be a resurgence of the Taliban and this kind of unimaginable violence? When the U.S. leaves Afghanistan permanently, Afghan women will undoubtedly suffer.

Throughout the past decade, our policymakers have failed to take into account the important role that religion held (and still holds) in the structure of Afghan society. If we want to affect the way that Afghans conceptualize important notions such as justice, we must understand the forces in their lives that guide their decisions.

Poll: Religion is not the biggest enemy for Arab women

After 30 years of constant warfare, unstable political, civil and governmental systems and a dismal education system, many Afghans look to religious authorities to guide their actions. The solution to fighting extremism and affecting change in Afghanistan lies within the religious system; secular ideologies that are imposed on Afghans are alien to them.

Having said this, Americans do not have to sacrifice our goals of spreading democracy and peace to the Afghan people.

Just as our Founding Fathers established "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as basic rights for all Americans, so too does Islam establish the protection and preservation of life, religion, family, intellect, property and dignity for all. We must look for ways in which such rights can be realized, and ways in which we can work with Afghans to address these injustices.

In 2006, Daisy founded the Women's Islamic Initiative on Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a social justice movement that works to reclaim women's rights in Islam. Its Global Muslim Women's Shura Council of scholars and activists were so compelled by the level of violence against women that they published "Jihad Against Violence," (PDF) a report that condemns both violent extremism and domestic violence.

The response to this report, along with WISE's Imam Training Program to End Violence against Women in Afghanistan, was overwhelming. Many Afghan imams confided in us that the scriptural evidence that we provided helped them to realize that they were propagating distorted and incorrect interpretations of the Quran, unintentionally.

Egypt's Islamists: Much to prove on women's rights

The value of these religious literacy trainings were so transformative that we were told, "The U.S. government should not have spent billions (on the war); they should have spent millions and involved the imams (with regards to women's rights), and everything would have been different today." Similarly, an Afghan woman told us, "imams are our only shield against the Taliban."

The Arab Spring has forced U.S. policymakers to acknowledge the fundamental importance of engaging with religious-political movements in the Middle East, and efforts to include these movements are gradually making their way into our foreign policy.

As Muslims, we know that it is only in the religious sphere that we can achieve our vision of peace, democracy, prosperity and the realization of human and women's rights in Afghanistan, and prevent atrocities like public executions from ever happening again.

Opinion: Why world must react to Taliban execution

Saving Face: The struggle and survival of Afghan women

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT