Afghan girls attend a lesson at Tajrobawai Girls High School in Herat, Afghanistan, on Thursday, November 25, 2021.
Credit: AP Photo / Petros Giannakouris, File
While the reopening of public and private universities in Afghanistan may seem like a gesture of reconciliation from the Taliban, it poses greater challenges to the international community and security if schools and universities come to house and breed more Islamic fundamentalists.
As of February 4, public and some private universities in Afghanistan reopened, where female students return to classes separated from their male peers. Taliban earlier listed that public universities would reopen, from February 4 for universities in warmer areas and February 26 in colder areas. In return, the group can accommodate the inclusion of women in the education sphere as one of the West’s demands, in the hopeful exchange of foreign aid and the release of Afghan state assets.
But by learning from history and its origins, the goals of the resurgence of higher education in Afghanistan deserve a more critical reassessment. Considering the group’s theology, Deobandi fundamentalism, and militant Islamism, the Taliban’s education system would differ significantly from that of secular education. The consequences will be a lack of impartial education and the implementation of a curriculum that serves the values and ideology of the Taliban, which is likely to include a ban on any field of study that might threaten the group’s legitimacy and undermine its values. No Simone de Beauvoir’s “Other Sex” in French literature, but preservation of courses relating to political Islam.
In 2014, the Taliban intervened and changed the school of the republic curriculum in Kunduz, Paktia and Nangarhar, three provinces controlled by the group at the time. They banned secular education and changed the curriculum to be completely religious – in accordance with their ideology and values - and dropped the subjects of English, culture, history and physical education.
Taliban, which can be translated as “students of Islam” or “seekers of knowledge,” dated back even before Ahmed Shah Durrani became the king of modern Afghanistan, as Steve Colls “Ghost Wars” Put it. The young, driven and intentional Taliban were educated in small mattresses and would later migrate to a larger one in their young adult life, after which they would return to their respective villages and teach younger students. In the later 20th century, some such Taliban were exiled Pashtuns from Kandahar, trained in Pakistani and Saudi intelligence-led training camps and mattresses in Pakistan during anti-Soviet jihad, the civil conflicts among Afghan factions, later, and the emergence of the Taliban in power. in the 1990ies. These conflicts changed the group’s curriculum, incorporating new religious texts based on strict Saudi theology and creeds. One of the mattresses in Peshawar, Haqqania, adopted a mixed curriculum of transnational political Islam and deobandism, a strict form of Islam that rejects an Islamic approach to adapting to changing societies.
The current humanitarian, political and economic crises have likely exposed the Taliban to ideological compromises between the group’s moderate and hard factions in an attempt to win the support of the international community. The Taliban would have reasonable expectations of receiving more financial aid from the international community to support the country’s education system and recover the country’s currently frozen assets worth billions of dollars. But the United States and its allies should not take it as an article of faith that the Taliban have no hidden agenda behind their education policies, and unconditionally accept the simple reopening of schools. The international community must have a UN-backed monitoring and control mechanism for the education system in Afghanistan.
An education system without both surveillance and control mechanisms in Afghanistan, while providing Taliban financial assistance, is a tenfold failure, similar to the covert action that US, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence launched decades ago to help the group in its first years without find out. the bigger picture of the group’s motivations. After resisting external interventions for decades, the Taliban have both learned and learned a great deal in order to pursue their domestic agenda while maintaining relations with international actors. Training camps and mattresses dedicated to a hard curriculum and public service condemning Western values would serve as tone-deaf strategies today; the group has become better at soft power diplomacy, and if it were to breed new generations of hardline Islamists, the education sector is what they would invest in.
A carte blanche in letting the Taliban government determine the country’s education system will only spawn tough followers for the group’s leaders of today, as the Taliban will not allow any courses that could challenge their ideology and potentially spawn a new resistance. Although it is not possible to adopt a secular education system as it exists in the West, for example in the sense of complete separation of state affairs and religion, the country nevertheless needs an impartial education system where it teaches the good, the bad, the all. Afghanistan must have education, but it must not be a means of indoctrinating younger generations on the road to becoming radical Islamists. But any outside intervention to resist the group’s educational curriculum is tantamount to challenging the Islamic ideology and values they hold, which constitutes yet another stalemate in further negotiations between the group and the international community.
Ultimately, the Taliban’s investment in education should not be as encouraging as it would be to see women’s inclusion in their government. If the group wanted to appease the international community in exchange for financial support, they would have incorporated female figures into government agencies – a movement that would not have cost dollars and would have won them popular support. The reopening of universities in the country can cost more than it is worth, given the probable curricula and the result of training more in a system that supports the ideology of the Taliban. The Taliban do not want to appease the United States and its allies, but they have a critical self-interest in investing in education. Let’s hope the United States is not flattered.