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Monday, November 19, 2007
Educate the Women, Save the World
I recently came across a fascinating article in Ode Magazine entitled The Transformation of an Extremist. The article tells the story of a former Taliban freedom fighter who has now committed his life to educating girls. He was part of the violent Taliban regime until 9/11 when the magnitude of innocent deaths caused him to flee that life. But he soon realized that just leaving the Taliban wasn't enough to stop the ideology of terrorism. To counter terrorist propaganda, education would be necessary. About that the article states -
Education was the only antidote to the terrorists’ rhetoric. Kashmiris’ ignorance of the outside world, combined with desperate poverty, made them especially vulnerable to manipulation.

“These people who are not going to school, that’s the basis of terrorism,” Ali says. “Any person can use them against our country. It’s sectarianism due to illiteracy.” Ali is convinced educating girls in particular is the only way his country will change. Female literacy in the villages runs at about 4 percent. But educated girls will become educated mothers, argues Ali, and insist on education for their children, which could set the nation on a new track...

“It will spoil the next 15 to 20 years if the children grow up illiterate. They will be big troublemakers. But if they are educated, they can use dialogue and negotiation; they can distinguish between propaganda and reality. We are responsible for that before God.”

Although education may not be the fix for ending manipulation through propaganda (just look at the USA), it at least gives people the tools to think for themselves and know that other options are possible. I thought this article represented a good message of hope for a better world.

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posted by Julie at 1:05 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/20/2007 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Jason Barr

    While education, as you say, isn't necessarily the sole weapon to end manipulation through propaganda, it's a key aspect I think. One aspect of such an education, I think, would have to include a discussion about what propaganda is and how it works, how to spot it.

    What I find perhaps more interesting is the connection between illiteracy and isolation from what's going in the wider world. It seems to me, to put it in more postmodern-ish terms, that a tyrannical local narrative can only be overcome when a grander story is presented, albeit one that also makes local people a part of it.

  • At 11/20/2007 11:38:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Julie, this is a great story. I agree with Jason that the opportunity to look at the grander story can bring freedom, specifically within an isolated area.

  • At 11/21/2007 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    This is a good thing -- I love stories that encourage optimism. I also agree propaganda isn't going to away just because someone can read, since most propaganda appeals to our non-critically thinking impulses, insecurities and emotions, but as Jason pointed out, as we can learn to recognize propaganda and when we are impacted by it, we can the ability to live increasingly by our conscious choices.


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