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Afghan Schoolgirls Poisoned

Taliban publicly beating Afghan women, 2000, RAWA

In their continuing war against female education, the Taliban or their sympathizers poisoned the drinking water at a girls high school in Takhar province in Afghanistan.

The Taliban believe that women and girls should not be educated and that they must live under an even stricter interpretation of Sharia law than that imposed in Saudi Arabia. When the Taliban had control of about half of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, they outlawed education for females as un-Islamic.

Funny thing about that. The Hadith are a collection of remembrances by associates of the Prophet Mohammed, with direct quotes from the Prophet on a wide range of subjects. A particular meeting was reported by two different sources, Ibn Majah and Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Iman, and Anas Ibn Malik in Al Tirmidhi. Hadith #74 quotes the Prophet as saying that “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim [both male and female.]” The qualifier is in some translations and not in others. Anecdotally, the Prophet is said to have supported education for everyone, male and female, rich and poor, so that all might be able to read the Qur’an. It is known, both from the Qur’an and from the Hadith that the Prophet greatly valued education, offering freedom to any educated enslaved prisoner of war who taught ten illiterate Arab children, urging his people to travel widely for learning, encouraging the learning of foreign languages. It is told that a physician was offered a post in the palace of the Sultan of Baghdad but had to refuse it because of the prohibitive expense of moving his library. The Prophet’s wives were certainly educated. All but one was a successful businesswoman.

But the Qur’an and the Hadith have no place in Taliban thinking. They pick and choose which of the Prophet’s teachings they will follow.

On Tuesday, the girls drew water from a large tank for jugs in their classroooms. The girls suffered headaches and vomiting. Some were hospitalized in critical condition, but most were treated and released. Jan Mohammad Nabizada, a spokesman for the education department in Takhar said, “We are 100% sure that the water they drunk inside their classes was poisoned. This is either the work of those who are against girls’ education or irresponsible armed individuals.” Upon examination, the large storage tank was found to be clean. Only the classroom jugs were contaminated. Haffizullah Safi, the head of Takhar’s public health department, told the press “This is not a natural illness. It’s an intentional act to poison schoolgirls.” The public statements did not name the Taliban or any other specific group. In the past, acid has been thrown on schoolgirls.

The Taliban had allegedly dropped its opposition to female education, in order to present a more moderate face to the world as they engaged in talks with the Afghan government to end the insurgency and attacks on American troops. The Taliban had expressed an interest in becoming a political force in Afghanistan instead of a rebel force. But, they never explicitly denounced their assaults on female education or any of their positions on women in Muslim society.

 

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