This article was originally published on the website of the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives. Republished with permission.
A month ago I was shocked to hear the news of an 18-year-old woman from Afghanistan who was punished by slicing her ears and nose, for running away from her abusive husband’s house.
The news was carried around the world by the leading news agencies for many days, especially the western media. A few days later, I was shopping at Ashrafee Bookshop – one of the largest bookstores in Male’ – and happened to see the mind-disturbing image of the abused woman named Aisha.
The image was published on the cover page of the TIME magazine. I did not have the courage to gaze at the horrifying picture for long, because the beautiful girl’s nose was missing. A maroon coloured shawl partially covered her head while her ears were covered with the beautifully combed black hair.
The image would certainly create hatred against the Taliban, the previous rulers of Afghanistan, before the US forces occupied the country to hunt Osama Bin Laden. Like any other reader, the bold letters on the image also caught my attention. It read: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?”.
The message was very clear.
What I understood from it was that if US forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the country’s condition would worsen as seen in the picture. Every woman would be abused likewise, as we see Aisha in the image.
The article was written by the famous writer Aryn Baker. I read the whole article twice. My conclusion is that the purpose of publishing the article was to criticise Islamic Sharia and to blame the Taliban because they are gaining victory over the US forces in many of the districts in Afghanistan.
One line in the article read: “Under the Taliban, women accused of adultery were stoned to death; those who flashed a bare ankle were whipped”.
The whole article was in favour of Islamaphobia, and creating abhorrence against Islamic customs, principles and jurisprudence. The article was very much in support of the occupied forces while failing to bring all the sides of the story.
Although I am not a professional journalist, I had the opportunity to report from Pakistan and Indian controlled Kashmir. To my knowledge all the parties involved in a sensitive story should be given a fair chance to respond.
But the writer has failed to bring the comments of Aisha’s husband and in-laws, and Taliban. The whole article was single sourced, breaking journalism ethics. It may be hard or impossible to get an interview from the victim’s husband and in-laws. But if the writer wished, she could have got a comment from Taliban.
The writer also could have mentioned Taliban’s denial statement made through internet. The whole story is totally a biased one. Aisha’s case may be true, or it is possible that the story was created. There is no way to prove the accusations made by Aisha.
She might have been abused by her family or by muggers. Who knows what is behind the picture? Aisha might have blamed the Taliban by posing for the cover image of TIME, as it may be her only chance for reconstructive surgery.
In the editorial, Managing Editor Richard Stengel wrote: “Aisha will head to the US for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organisation in California. We are supporting the effort.”
This statement proves that TIME has bought the story by funding for the surgery to some extent.
Since US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed and many were made disabled by ‘accidental’ attacks. But these incidents have failed to catch the attention of the international news media.
On 19 September, the Washington Post reported that the US military was investigating a case where three civilians were killed for fun by a group of US soldiers. The newspaper also reported that the culprits even posed for pictures with the amputated body parts of the dead Afghans.
I want to question the western media as to why stories involving abusive acts of US military are not covered in the same manner as the story of Aisha? Like Afghanistan, the unlawful invasion by the US has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq. A report published by Iraq Body Count Project (IBC), an independent UK-US group reveals that nearly 1,989 civilians have been killed in Iraq only in 2010 by coalition military action, Iraqi insurgency and excess crimes.
According to IBC, 106,072 civilians have been killed since Iraq was invaded in 2003. This is also an under estimated figure as the information was based only on those reported by media organisations. IBC project’s director John Sloboda has said earlier “We’ve always said our work is an undercount, you can’t possibly expect that a media-based analysis will get all the death.”
As witnessed in other countries, the US Embassy is investing money on lots of projects in the Maldives under the banner of promoting democracy, human rights and free media. But the reality is that there is a hidden agenda behind these investments.
The purpose is to influence and control the country through modern methods of colonialism. My answer to the messy writer is, if you (US and other coalition forces) leave Afghanistan, tens of thousands of lives would be saved, so leave Afghanistan and other Muslim countries.