Skip to main content

Islam key to Afghan Dream

By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan, Special to CNN
July 11, 2012 -- Updated 2325 GMT (0725 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Opinion: U.S. underestimates importance of Islam in making Afghanistan a better place
  • Authors say Islam establishes protection and preservation of life, and dignity for all
  • They say the U.S. should work with imams to improve lives in Afghanistan

Editor's note: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, one of the key figures in the plan for an Islamic center near ground zero, and author of "Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America." His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy, and Time magazine named him among the 100 most influential people of the world. Daisy Khan is executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and founder of WISE & Global Muslim Women's Shura Council.

(CNN) -- We watched in horror this week at the execution of an Afghan woman who was shot nine times while a crowd of roaring men who call themselves Muslim cheered and screamed. We were reminded of a similar tragedy that took place in 1999 in which a mother of five, clad in a blue burqa, was shot dead in a soccer stadium in Kabul. Both of these women were wrongfully accused of adultery, as there was no proof, evidence, fair trial, due process or justice.

The similarities between the two slayings signaled to us that not much has changed in Afghanistan in the decade since the United States first became involved there. When we Americans ask why we have failed in Afghanistan, we blame the Afghans' antiquated tribal practices and their hate of America's freedom, and most of all, we blame their religion: Islam.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Daisy Khan
Daisy Khan

Though we have said it over and over again, let us reiterate once more: The actions of these men were in absolute and supreme violation of God's laws, and Islam does not condone unmitigated violence of any kind. Period.

Manhunt under way for Taliban who shot woman in public execution

Though the U.S. declared the promotion of women's rights, human rights and democracy as its policy goals before invading Afghanistan, it would appear that all three were lost in our efforts to establish a "secular" democracy in an Islamic Republic.

When our government deployed our troops intending to eliminate al Qaeda and the Taliban and establish a new government in Afghanistan, we took responsibility for the future of its people. Is it not tragic, after all the bloodshed and the billions of taxpayers' dollars spent, that there could be a resurgence of the Taliban and this kind of unimaginable violence? When the U.S. leaves Afghanistan permanently, Afghan women will undoubtedly suffer.

Throughout the past decade, our policymakers have failed to take into account the important role that religion held (and still holds) in the structure of Afghan society. If we want to affect the way that Afghans conceptualize important notions such as justice, we must understand the forces in their lives that guide their decisions.

Poll: Religion is not the biggest enemy for Arab women

After 30 years of constant warfare, unstable political, civil and governmental systems and a dismal education system, many Afghans look to religious authorities to guide their actions. The solution to fighting extremism and affecting change in Afghanistan lies within the religious system; secular ideologies that are imposed on Afghans are alien to them.

Having said this, Americans do not have to sacrifice our goals of spreading democracy and peace to the Afghan people.

Just as our Founding Fathers established "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as basic rights for all Americans, so too does Islam establish the protection and preservation of life, religion, family, intellect, property and dignity for all. We must look for ways in which such rights can be realized, and ways in which we can work with Afghans to address these injustices.

In 2006, Daisy founded the Women's Islamic Initiative on Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a social justice movement that works to reclaim women's rights in Islam. Its Global Muslim Women's Shura Council of scholars and activists were so compelled by the level of violence against women that they published "Jihad Against Violence," (PDF) a report that condemns both violent extremism and domestic violence.

The response to this report, along with WISE's Imam Training Program to End Violence against Women in Afghanistan, was overwhelming. Many Afghan imams confided in us that the scriptural evidence that we provided helped them to realize that they were propagating distorted and incorrect interpretations of the Quran, unintentionally.

Egypt's Islamists: Much to prove on women's rights

The value of these religious literacy trainings were so transformative that we were told, "The U.S. government should not have spent billions (on the war); they should have spent millions and involved the imams (with regards to women's rights), and everything would have been different today." Similarly, an Afghan woman told us, "imams are our only shield against the Taliban."

The Arab Spring has forced U.S. policymakers to acknowledge the fundamental importance of engaging with religious-political movements in the Middle East, and efforts to include these movements are gradually making their way into our foreign policy.

As Muslims, we know that it is only in the religious sphere that we can achieve our vision of peace, democracy, prosperity and the realization of human and women's rights in Afghanistan, and prevent atrocities like public executions from ever happening again.

Opinion: Why world must react to Taliban execution

Saving Face: The struggle and survival of Afghan women

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT