FaithWorld

Women brave social barriers to join Afghan police force

(Afghan policewomen search women at a polling station in Herat, western Afghanistan September 18, 2010/Raheb Homavandi)

Married off at 12 years old to an abusive husband more than four times her age, Maryam wanted to join Afghanistan’s police force to help others avoid an all-too-familiar plight in a country where women’s voices often go unheard. A mother of three, Maryam is one of the women who make up less than one percent of Afghanistan’s National Police. They wear knee-length olive green skirts over thick trousers with navy hijabs.

The 22-year-old’s eyes light up when she talks about her job, one widely viewed in deeply conservative Muslim Afghan society as off-limits for women. This sentiment is shared by her father, who has stopped speaking to her and moved out of the family home because she works in an office with men who are not relatives.

“I am serving my country, which needs kind, honourable and honest women who are able to solve specifically women’s problems. We need policewomen as well as men,” Maryam, who only gave her first name, told Reuters. “With this job, you get to feel like a human being in this society. I love it,” she added, enthusiastically gesturing her manicured hands in a small room in the heavily barricaded Interior Ministry in Kabul, which has been repeatedly bombed in recent years by Taliban insurgents.

Women number up to 1,000 of Afghanistan’s 126,000 police officers. Afghan officials and the West, who do most of their training, say female police fill much-needed gaps in a society where the two sexes must often be separated.

Criticism mounts of “anti-Muslim frenzy” in U.S., Koran burning plan under fire

koran burning 1U.S. religious leaders  have condemned an “anti-Muslim frenzy” in the United States, including plans by a Florida church to burn a Koran on September 11, an act a top general said could endanger American troops abroad. Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders denounced the “misinformation and outright bigotry” against U.S. Muslims resulting from plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque not far from the site of the September 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks in New York by Islamist militants. The Vatican has also condemned the Koran burning plan. (Photo: Indonesian Care for Pluralism Movement protests against Koran burning plan, Jakarta, 8 Sept 2010/Crack Palinggi)

Tensions have risen with the approach of both the September 11 anniversary on Saturday and the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the close of the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to end around Friday. Passions have been further inflamed by Terry Jones, the pastor of a 30-person church in Gainesville, Florida, who has announced plans to burn a Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Jones says he wants to “expose Islam (as a) violent and oppressive religion.”

Religious leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic Archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, released a statement on Tuesday saying they were “alarmed by the anti-Muslim frenzy” and “appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text.” Read the full story here.

U.S. Afghanistan commanders condemn Florida church’s Koran-burning plan

kabul koran (Photo: Afghans in Kabul protest against Koran burning plan, September 6, 2010/Mohammad Ishaq)

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have warned that a small Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks could endanger the lives of American troops.

The warnings followed an angry protest on Monday by several hundred people in the Afghan capital, Kabul, who chanted “Death to America” as they denounced the planned burning event by the Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center church.

The center, calling itself a “New Testament, Charismatic, Non-Denominational Church,” says it will go ahead with the torching of the Koran on Saturday to mark the ninth anniversary of the 2001 attacks against the United States.

from Jeffrey Jones:

Dalai Lama: Afghan war a failure

    The Dalai Lama believes the war in Afghanistan has so far been a failure, saying military intervention creates additional complications for the country.
    The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, making his first visit to the Western Canadian city of Calgary in 30 years, said foreign military intervention against Taliban insurgents has only served to make the fundamentalist group more determined.  
    The war has been "so far, I think, a failure," he told reporters, adding that he could not yet judge its outcome. "Using military forces, the other hard-liners become even more hard ... and due to civilian casualties the other side also sometimes is getting more sympathy from local people." 
    U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing calls to boost troop levels and alter strategy to reverse what officials have said is a deteriorating military situation. But the Dalai Lama said it would all have been unnecessary had the United States and the European Union spent more on aid to the region.
    "Instead of spending billions and billions of dollars for killing they should have spent billions .... on education and health in rural areas and underdeveloped areas. (If they had) I think the picture would be different."

-- Written by Scott Haggett

(Photo: The Dalai Lama speaks at a conference in Calgary, Alberta, on October 1, 2009. REUTERS/Todd Korol)