Saturday, November 21, 2009

This Week in Being We the People

Our last post centered on comments as a means of exchange, leading up to the visit the Afghan students make to America. This week has seen a specific exchange of commentary that illuminates how casual, topical interface between students on any given subject can make way for exchanging more profound insights that prompt discussion on political, historical, moral, and philosophical issues.

Earlier in the month, an American student who maintains an active interest in military history asked the Afghan students at via the Shutterfly site what their opinion was of the Taliban and the war on terrorism. The “Taliban is not just a threat for Afghanistan,” A Marefat student named Bismullah responded, “but for every nation in the world, that is why they have to be defeated, and I think this is the interest of all those who participate in the war.” He went on to argue that “war itself for tackling a group like Taliban is not wrong, but ways we selected strategies can be right or wrong and effective or not effective.” In other words, the ends justify the means—as long as the means are effective.

Bismullah’s opinion is informed by the community he belongs to. Marefat High School is made up predominantly of Hazaras, an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan who have suffered disproportionately under the Taliban, and would again be among the worst treated should the Taliban prevail in Afghanistan again. This is an engaging way to interpret the social, political, and cultural influences on the opinions of students in another country. That analysis can help students see how their own views are formed.

For the time being, Bismullah has posted his matter-of-fact answers to two of the most pressing contemporary political questions—one of which has been relevent for as long as mankind has been around, the other has only become an issue within the last several years. Can you justify war? And: does the Taliban constitute a threat to the international community, or is it purely a nationalistic movement, as it claims to be?

We’ll wait to see whether anyone disagrees with Bismullah’s opinions. Bismullah, for his part, hopes that someone does. “You are asking interesting questions, “he says. “Please keep asking such questions so that we can exchange ideas and views.”

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