Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Crossing the Red Line

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Crossing the Red Line

Three decades of war and violence have resulted in cultural erosion and moral decline in Afghanistan. The current culture is based either on secular mindset or radical ideology. A pure religious tenet seems to be at stake since secular and liberal norms are practiced in urban life and fundamental traditions hold strong sway in villages. Perhaps, the two conflicting practices stem from secular communist – a term which carries a negative meaning in Afghanistan – and radical Taliban. Due to different regimes, Afghanistan has fluctuated between secularism and radicalism for many years.  
There is a wide cultural gap between urban and rural life. For instance, women encounter many traditional barriers in villages and sometimes treated with disdain, mainly in tribal belts. Similarly, they are flagellated or stoned in desert court without legal process and their freedom is restricted via patriarchal customs. In cities, however, women live a better life and have access to courts, Human Rights Commission and social activists to raise their voice in their favor. The rural and urban cultures are in direct conflicts.  
The elders reveal a great nostalgia for the past culture which was based on religious tenets and ethical code. In the past, when western styles did not infiltrate our culture through advertising gimmicks, business show, films, internets, etc., people used to live a quiet life with a peace of mind. They were subject to the call of their conscience and safeguarded their dignity and beliefs against moral corruption. They neither exchanged their faith for lust or money nor their virtue for vice. Their voracious appetite for moral values and religiosity was reflected through their sound culture and social norms. They would protect their national values and cultural mores at the cost of their lives. For example, during the war against the former Soviet, Afghan nation made great sacrifices with a strong sense of brotherhood to protect their faith and national values. Therefore, the people fought bloody battles, with high morale, so as to prevent from cultural erosion. They preferred a glorious death to an ignominious life and chose martyrdom so as not to bow their heads before the next generations. In short, they invested in our national culture by their blood.
The current relative democracy in Afghanistan is the outcome of sacred jihad against the invaders – those who intended to humiliate Afghan nation. Our history keeps many heroic acts and national victories in its heart. The image of the 18-year-old Afghan national heroine Malalai of Maiwand, who rallied local people fighters against the British troops at the 1880 Battle of Maiwand, still haunts the mind of Afghan nation. Our history remembers that when one of the Afghan leading flag-bearers fell from a British bullet, Malalai went forward and held up the flag singing heroic song as, “With a drop of my sweetheart’s blood, shed in defense of the motherland, will I put a beauty spot on my forehead, such as would put to shame the rose in the garden.”  The blood of Malalai, a patriotic heroin, at the Battle of Maiwand was shed to protect national dignity and to assure democracy for the present generation. It is believed that the streams of blood, which were shed in battle fields for safeguarding the rights and dignity of individuals, now blossom freedom and democracy.
The nascent democracy was not obtained overnight. The blood of men, women and children forms the cornerstone of our freedom. Now, it should be noted that we are responsible before our previous and future generations. We should save the martyrs’ blood through safeguarding our cultural values, religious tenets and ethical code. Similarly, we should hand down a pure culture, which is based on moral standards, to our next generations.
Fluctuating between secularism and radicalism is highly perilous and will put our culture and historical achievements at the mercy of erosion. We are supposed to protect the cultural values which root in religious codes or moral standards and fight against the traditions which are based either on superstition, parochial mindsets, etc.  

It is a great cause for concern to see that our culture is being merged into other cultures, both eastern and western like Indian, Turkish, European and American cultures, through movies and serials or simply through migrations. Our younger generation is highly vulnerable to cultural invasion. A large number of youths, including male and female, have adopted theatrical and cinematic styles and fashions. For instance, the females’ ponytail, penciled eyebrows, colored lips, miniskirt, tights and sandals remind you of fashion models or stage actresses – this scene is usually seen in cities. However, in some other corners of the country, women still use the old-fashioned burqa, a full covering with meshed face that Afghan women were forced to wear during the Taliban’s regime, or confined within the four walls, mainly in tribal areas where traditions root in radical mindsets. It is believed that boundless freedom breeds moral corruption and strict restrictions may lead to violence – neither of them are based on religious tenets. Crossing the red line will have horrible consequence for the community and will result in cultural decline. Protecting cultural values is our moral obligation and we have to fulfill it in the best possible way.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@ yahoo.com

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