Equality will civilize Afghanistan, expert says

  • August 28, 2012

By Howard Altman

Before the entrees arrived, the Chris Matthews of Afghanistan said the Obama-Romney tilt is setting a bad example for his homeland.

"There are a lot of good things about democracy here," Dr. Farid Younos said. "But there are a lot of bad things here right now. When I see that Romney and Obama keep attacking each other, that is not a civilized manner of elections. As a superpower, we have to be a model for conduct and principal."

Younos, a lecturer at California State University East Bay, hosts "30 Minutes News Analysis" — must-see TV for Afghans back home and around the world. It is broadcast from the studios of Nooor TV in San Francisco.

Well-known as a supporter of rights for Afghan women, Younos was in town last week to talk to the folks at U.S. Central Command and deliver a lecture at the University of South Florida. His visit was sponsored by Centcom's Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence, which provides all-source analysis to policy and decision makers at the strategic and operational levels.

As the small gathering brought together by the center's Ed Zellem, a Navy captain, waited for food at Restaurant BT, Younos held court. He said that if there is to be any security in Afghanistan, the entire population — including women — will have to be educated and trained.

And just as men and women must be equals, so, too, must Sunni and Shia.

"There should be equality," he said. "We should declare Sunni and Shia equal. No Sunnis in the majority. No Shia should be the majority. As I said on my show many times, there is one 'I' in Sunni, one 'I' in Shia. There should be no discrimination."

According to Islamic law, women, he says, are equal to men. "We should declare by law that they have all the possibilities and opportunities as men do."

Otherwise, all the sacrifices made — the lives of more than 2,000 U.S. troops and more than half a trillion dollars — and any gains won, will be for naught.

During his visit, Younos proposed "that we have to do the whole thing over and create a civilized society for Afghanistan, not just build roads and hospitals and schools, because making those roads and hospitals and schools without educating people is not a sustainable project and will fail again."

With Afghanistan ripped by ethnic and tribal strife and no one group making up a majority, Younos said, "We should get rid of this ethnic issue and push for a civilized citizenship for all Afghans, like the United States. One nation under God."

For now, Younos said, the government of Afghanistan is "responsible for education, health, our schooling, housing. Until the country is built sufficiently to stand on its own feet and at that time, we put the role of government aside."

When people are "jobless, hopeless, they live in famine and poverty, they resort to the Taliban, OK?" he said. "But when you provide them work, education, a decent income, then they don't need to go to the Taliban."

But another factor to consider, Younos said, is that the only thing that the various ethnic groups in Afghanistan have in common is Islam.

"We need to invest in that for our unity, otherwise Afghanistan will be partitioned, like India," he said. "And the U.S. will be blamed for this."

American myopia is nothing new, Younos said, adding that the U.S. also "supported Mubarak; we don't even feel shame when we ignored the whole of Egypt. We supported the king of Iran, and look what happened. How come we are not taking the side of the people?"

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