The cultural conflict between the pakistani taliban and pakistani women


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The cultural conflict between the pakistani taliban and pakistani women

  1. 1. ANALYSIS PAPER 1 The Cultural Conflict between the Pakistani Taliban and Female Pakistani Advocates for Education Janet Mesh University of New Hampshire
  2. 2. ANALYSIS PAPER 2 W. Barnett Pearce (1989) eloquently states in his book, Communication and the Human Condition, that “all human beings construct stories that make their world coherent, but not all stories are alike, not all stories work as well as others, and stories often contradict each other” (p.21). Human beings constantly strive with great effort to construct a coherent narrative of their interpretation of the world. When two cultures intersect and stories from each culture do not complement one another, a conflict may arise. A story that human beings construct are classified as resources, such as “images, symbols, and institutions that persons use to make their world meaningful” (Pearce, 1989, p. 23). In addition to resources, humans use practices, or actions, to make their world meaningful. Resources and practices comprise what Pearce explains as the communication perspective. This perspective “sees all human activity as recurring, reflexive process in which resources are expressed in practices and in which practices (re)construct resources” (Pearce, 1989, p. 23). In other words, human beings are constantly enacting together to create meaning of their worlds with resources and practices. If resources express practices and practices construct or reconstruct resources, then culture is not a fixed thing. Instead culture is co-evolutionary and best understood when two or more cultures interact. In order to further understand this reciprocal process, I will apply the communication perspective and the tools for understanding cultural forms of communication to the cultural conflict between the Pakistani Taliban and women in Pakistan who advocate for education rights. I will analyze the Pakistani Taliban as practicing ethnocentric communication and the women advocates in Pakistan as practicing modernist communication. I will also provide a cultural and historical background of each culture and will apply Pearce’s taxonomy for forms of communication to each. The cultural orientations and forms of communication each side
  3. 3. ANALYSIS PAPER 3 practices has been a strong topic recently since the shooting by the Taliban of a fourteen year old Pakistani girl named Malala Yousafzai in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. Overall, I will discuss how violence occurs between the two sides when the cultures intersect, particularly in the case with the Taliban and Malala Yousafzai, and will apply the form of cosmopolitan communication to the diatribe in order to find a way for humane contact to occur between the two sides. Even though the Taliban existed before this time, between 1979 and 1988 it became recognized as a fundamentalist organization and “rose as a militant Islamist movement in Afghanistan after the successful “Jihad” against Soviet occupation” (Behuria, 2007, p.530). A “jihad” is a war against infidels. Those who fight this war against infidels are called “mujahideen”. This term originates from Muhammed in the Qur’an and means “Muslims who struggle in the path of God” (Behuria, 2007, p 531). After the Soviet defeat, “the Taliban gained popularity, it attracted material and moral help from the Pakistani establishment, enabling it to bring the entire state under its control” (Behuria, 2007, p. 532) and the mujahideen came to power in Pakistan. This control of Pakistan by the Taliban pressured Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to introduce the fifteenth amendment to the Pakistani constitution which states that the Federal Government is under an obligation to enforce the Shariah law in the country as well as to uphold the “principles of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Qur’an” (Behuria, 2007, p. 533). For the purpose of this paper I will refer to this side of the diatribe as the “Taliban”. However, a distinction must be made that this is not the “Taliban” that the United States has been at war with in Afghanistan. Instead, this group in Pakistan is also known as “Tehrik-i-Talbian Pakistan” and shares the same religious ideology with the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda. This ideology roots itself in the religion, Islam. Their religious guidelines are “considered to provide the basis for conduct and judgment, for ideas and practice, understanding
  4. 4. ANALYSIS PAPER 4 life and the universe and the rectification of contemporary problems facing Muslims” (Vertigans, 2009, 9). The religion practiced by the Taliban is Islam and those who are followers of Islam are called Muslims. “Islam is the second largest religion in the world with over 1 billion followers” (“Islam at a Glance”, 2009). The Qur’an is the holy scripture of Muslims and was revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammed, so Muslims understand the verses in the Qur’an as the literal word of God. “Islam is distinctive for having an explicit theory of moral development… it is a morality that stresses the individual’s power to act or refrain from acting, rather than the ability to make increasingly sophisticated judgments about what is right or wrong” (Pearce, 1989, p. 126). Muslims know what is right or wrong because the Qur’an prescribes the moral order in detail for every human. The most important practices are the Five Pillars of Islam which consist of Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm, and Hakk. The Five Pillars demonstrates the obligations of a Muslim’s life “and weaves their everyday activities and their beliefs into a single cloth of religious devotion” (“Five Pillars of Islam”, 2009). In addition to these sacred traditions, the Taliban in Pakistan practices Shariah law. Shariah law is understood in Islam “as God’s revealed law” and tries to describe all possible human acts by dividing them into the permitted (halal) and the prohibited (haram) (Barnabas Fund, 2007). Sharia law “influences the behavior and worldview of most Muslims” and governs all matters of devotional life, worship, marriage, inheritance, criminal offenses, commerce, and personal conduct. This law regulates the governing of the Islamic state and its relations to non-Muslims within the state as well as to enemies outside the state” (Barnabas Fund, 2007). Shariah law allows discrimination on the basis of religion as well as on the basis of gender. Under this law, women are seen as inferior and the law enforces modesty of women in public places. The Sharia also encourages Muslims to wage jihad in order change the “House of War” where non-Muslims are dominant. This is a
  5. 5. ANALYSIS PAPER 5 very important aspect of the law which forms the coherent story for the Taliban in the cultural conflict against the women in Pakistan. I will analyze the cultural world and communication perspective of the Taliban by explaining ethnocentric communication in detail with Pearce’s taxonomy tool and providing examples to support my explanations. The Taliban’s preferred form of communication is ethnocentric. Through Pearce’s (1989) description he states that in ethnocentric communication others are treated as non-natives, resources are not placed at risk, a particular structure of mythology exists, the implicative and practical logical forces are most dominant, and coherence, coordination, and mystery are achieved by the expression and (re)construction of resources in practices (p. 200). First in ethnocentric communication, resources are not placed “at risk” in which the stories are “not threatened by the explicit recognition of other, dissimilar stories”. In order to ensure this protection of stories, or resources, the group will claim it is “superior to the others, who are dismissed as subhumans… or less developed than the “chosen people”’ (Pearce, 1989, p. 128). This protection of resources by members of the culture does not allow outsiders to question their legitimacy. Since outsiders of this culture are considered inferior to insiders, the other is treated as a non-native. That is, any person outside the culture is not considered a rightful participant of that culture. Instead the other is treated as an outsider and positioned as the enemy in relation to natives. As stated above, the Sharia law in Islam and practiced by the Taliban allows them to discriminate against non-Muslims and create an enemy of anyone who does not construct and reconstruct the same stories, resources, and practices. According to retired Lieutenant General Talat Masood, “They are indoctrined to hate the West, to hate India, to hate everything other than their own brand of Islam” (“Battle of Swat Valley", 2009).
  6. 6. ANALYSIS PAPER 6 Also in ethnocentric communication, a structure of mythology exists that is comprised of a psychological, sociological, cosmological and epistemic question. The psychological questions asks, “Who am I?”, the sociological questions asks, “What are we?”, the cosmological questions asks, “What is the nature of the world we live”, and the epistemic question asks, “What is the nature of our knowledge about the answers to all these questions?” (Pearce, 2989, p. 104). In this form of communication, the answers given by the epistemic question is used to support the ways of life governed by the psychological, sociological, and cosmological questions. The epistemic question is dealt with separately from the rest of society which is accomplished by establishing a distinction between the secular and the sacred. Thus the facts of life are in the sacred stories. The Qur’an and Sharia law are resources used in the Taliban culture that guide the moral order for all Muslims. The Qur’an states the obligations of a Muslim’s life and the Shariah law influences the behaviors of Muslims since it governs personal, legal, commercials and religious matters. The sacred traditions of Islam “are to strengthen the will because that is the path of moral development” (Pearce, 1989, p. 127). In this communication form, coherence is achieved by stories that distinguish between “us” and “them”. There is also a mindfulness, or an awareness, of the existence of others who differ from the culture using ethnocentric communication. Coordination is achieved by enacting patterns well known to participants and a variety of scripts. Mystery is achieved by producing symbols to the content of stories. Pearce (1989) explains that the most common way to achieve coordination, coherence, and mystery in ethnocentric communication is to “link religion and the state, investing the ruler with divine authority and the religion with state power” (p. 120). The Taliban achieved coordination, coherence, and mystery in their cultural resources and practices
  7. 7. ANALYSIS PAPER 7 by effectively linking religion and state and having the constitution changed to consider Islam as Pakistan’s dominant religion. Beginning in 1977, General Zia ul-Haq came to power after overthrowing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Under Zia’s rule, he gained support from fundamentalist groups and feudal warlords in Pakistan in order to invoke Islam as a universal code of moral behavior and to create the “West” as the main enemy of Muslims. “Women’s hard won rights of the pre- and post-independence eras were the first ones to be taken away as Zia began implementing his vision of Islamic Law” (Jafar, 70). His main changes to Pakistan for women were to force women to wear the chadar, or a full body veil, in order to cover their bodies. Zia created propaganda commercials that associated women with the home and motherhood instead of as affluent members of society. The female body was thought of as obscene and enticing to the male’s will under this new Islamic rule. In addition, under Zia’s rule, the discourse on women was dominated by the belief that “women are repositories of family… and women are men’s property” (Jafar, 2005, p. 48). In 1988, Pakistan elected Benazir Bhutto, the first woman prime minister of Pakistan. There was hope that many of Zia’s institutionalized ideologies, especially for women, would be repealed. However, legal obstacles in the constitution made it extremely difficult for these Islamic laws to be repealed (Jafar, 2005). These laws and ideologies of a dominant Islamic male society, culture, and government continue to exist in the communication orientations and form in Pakistan and are best exemplified in the cultural conflict between women advocates and the Pakistani Taliban. On the other side of the conflict, the women of Pakistan and advocates for women’s education are practicing a different form of communication in this conflict. These women are practicing modernistic communication. The most important aspect of this communication is the
  8. 8. ANALYSIS PAPER 8 coherent narrative of change and progress. According to Pearce (1989), “when “new” resources/practices are evaluated as “better” than “old” one, there is a powerful impetus to change” (p. 146). Pakistani women who are advocating for rights to education view their “new” resources and practices as better than their “old” ones, such as being prohibited from attending schools or college. These women are adopting new language scripts that explain education as a human right. Since there is a coherent narrative in modernistic communication, there is an assumption that everyone practicing this form of communication is coordinating around the narrative. Mystery is acknowledged, but is understood as something that will be overcome by scientific method. The coherent narrative for change in modernity causes others to be treated as non-natives and for resources to be constantly at risk. The structure of mythology is also different, especially compared to ethnocentric communication. The facts of life and moral development are determined by human effort. In modernity, people gain knowledge for themselves, through their interpretations, so there is no difference in who deals with the epistemic question (Pearce, 1989).The Pakistan women in particular are happy modernists. Happy modernists, according to Pearce(1989), "use modernistic communication as the technology of liberation - a heady and healthy escape from the dead hand of tradition and a license to explore new ways of life" (p.147). Pakistani women are using education as a means for liberation from the tradition of Islamic rule in Pakistan. Happy modernists understand that a way of thinking is not new, but can be transformed into a new way through change, and then celebrates this newness.
  9. 9. ANALYSIS PAPER 9 The cultural conflict between the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistani women is receiving profound media attention around the world due to the recent intersection of the two cultures on October 9, 2012. On this day, a fourteen year old girl named Malala Yousafzai was shot twice in the neck and head by Taliban gunmen on her way home from school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. “Yousafzai first came into the public eye in 2009, when private schools in Pakistan's Swat valley were ordered to close in a Taliban edict that forbade girls from attending school” (“Profile: Malala Yousafzai”, 2009). She began writing a blog for the BBC’s Urdu service, under a pseudonym, Gul Makai, which means “grief stricken” in Urdu. She detailed in her blog how the ban affected her and her peers. Yousafzai stated, “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I’m afraid of no one” (as cited in Lloyd, 2012). Malala Yousafzai and the other advocates for education reform in Pakistan practice a modernist form of communication which caused the Pakistani Taliban to counter with a violent action. In the Inside Story video posted on, “Who in Pakistan should have protected Malala”, Mike Hanna discusses the current cultural conflict between the Pakistani Taliban and women’s advocacy of education with Rubina Khalid, a senator with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Amjad Malik, the chairman of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers, and Marium Fatima Khan, a women coordinator for Pakistan International Human Rights Organization. This twenty five minute dialogue reveals the “happy modernist” perspective that each person has for the future of Pakistan and a solution to the cultural conflict. Before the interviews, the reporters provide a brief synopsis of the attack on Malala Yousafzai. “Yousafzai had come to public attention at the age of 11, when she publically criticized the Pakistani Taliban for its violent action against girls’ school in the area which was then under its control” (as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012).
  10. 10. ANALYSIS PAPER 10 To understand the motives by the Taliban for the recent attack, another Taliban member, Tehreek E Taliban, stated, “Malala was targeted because of her pioneering roles in preaching secularism and so called enlightened moderation. And who ever does so in future will also be targeted again” as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). By claiming responsibility for the shooting, the Taliban is revealing that their motives are rooted in a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic Law. They are also protecting their resources and practices that support this interpretation of Islamic Law by targeting any enemies of Islam and ensuring future attacks. The Taliban’s uses ethnocentric communication by creating an enemy. However, the other side of the conflict, advocates for women’s rights to education, condemns this and future attacks and urge for change. In this video, this side of the diatribe is using rhetorical eloquence in order to offer a solution to the conflict. Rhetorical eloquence is the extent to which a communication system is utilized in order to persuade the other to agree with your story. Nonetheless, rhetorical eloquence can only occur when issues are compatible or have a common ground. (Pearce, 1989, p. 186). Rubina Khalid states in the interview, “Basically it is a mindset that we are fighting, it is a mindset that has to be changed and we will change it. It is time we should all get together and face the problem” (as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). Khalid reveals that she cannot compare her worldview to the Taliban’s and will not attempt to understand their mindset. Instead, she uses rhetorical eloquence and modernistic communication to ensure that she will change the Taliban’s mindset of Islamic law. There is no mention of wanting to understand the moral order of the Taliban. Instead she states clearly, “I cannot comprehend as to what kind of mindset would target a 14-year-old girl” (as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). Khalid’s use of rhetorical
  11. 11. ANALYSIS PAPER 11 eloquence may prove ineffective if a dialogue occurs between the two sides of the conflict because the Taliban’s story and the women’s story for education are not compatible. When asked for the motives of the attack on Malala Yousafuzi, the Taliban spokesman, Ehsan ullah Ehsan, he stated: “Although she was young and a girl and Taliban does not believe in attacking women but whomsoever leads any campaign against Islam and Shariah is ordered to be killed by Shariah. It is not merely allowed to kill such a person but it is obligatory in Islam.” (as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). In this statement, Ehsan ullah Ehsan is using the language script of ethnocentric communication to protect the resources and practices of his culture by maintaining a coherent story of the enemy. He is also using the communication perspective. The communication perspective states that “resources are expressed in practices and in which practices (re)construct resources” (Pearce, 1989, p. 23). Pearce (1989) further explains that “resources are expressed in practices, because resources comprise a “logic” of meaning and action that defines what is obligatory” (p. 39). As identified above, the Taliban are obligated to kill any person against Islam and Shariah since it is stated in the Qur’an. In the Taliban culture, this is a legitimate resource expressed in practice. This obligation to Islamic and Shariah law also reveals the deep enmeshment, or “quality of participation in a story (Pearce, 1989, p. 71), to the story because it deals with the facts of life for Muslims. Also, by saying Malala was “killed by Shariah” reveals that the Taliban are justified in the attack since Shariah law clearly states that any Muslim will perform jihad, or a war against infidels, to protect and expand Islamic traditions.
  12. 12. ANALYSIS PAPER 12 Marium Fatima Khan, a coordinator for Pakistan International Human Rights Organization, extends the interview in a happy modernist direction. When Mike Hanna asks if the oppression of women is rooted in cultural customs, she responds and explains, “Pakistan is in transformation and that the cultural values are there, but we are changing” as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). She also acknowledges the mindset of the Taliban that Khalid explains is working to undermine this transformative process, but is hopeful in her speech that the Pakistani people are being persuaded to agree with the coherent narrative for change. She also states that, “This is a high time to change the mindsets. Muslims by nature are peaceful people…. And this was the message of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, to promote education” (as cited from “Inside Story”, 2012). As mentioned earlier, the advocates for women’s right to education and the Taliban are both practicing rhetorical eloquence. Each side is attempting to persuade the other to agree with a different worldview compared to their own. Since the two sides of this conflict do not share a common ground in their worldviews and do not practice the same form of communication, rhetorical eloquence will not be effective in resolving this conflict. Instead, social eloquence should be practiced. Social eloquence is used when there is no common ground between two stories. Instead of trying to persuade, the two sides focus on coordination. By focusing on coordination, the two sides of the conflict have the opportunity to make stories comparable and to remind that each side is coming from a moral worldview. Social eloquence is achieved through a different form of communication, known as cosmopolitan communication. (Pearce, 1989).
  13. 13. ANALYSIS PAPER 13 Pearce (1989) describes cosmopolitan communication as a form of communication that “enables coordination among groups with different, even incommensurate, social realities” (p. 169). This is very different from ethnocentric and modernistic communication since these two emphasize coherence instead of coordination in their resources and practices. Cosmopolitan communication focuses on coordination in order to start and continue a dialogue between the two sides. By using social eloquence in cosmopolitan communication, each side is not asked to give upon their worldview. Instead, a dialogue occurs that hopefully results in self-reflection of both sides. The focus of cosmopolitan communication is to construct new meanings of resources and practices together through coordinated dialogue and self-reflection which will then allow constant humane contact between the two sides. I do not know if a full practice of cosmopolitan communication is possible for this conflict right now, but it is definitely desirable. Instead of focusing on coherence and agreement, the focus in cosmopolitan communication is on coordination and dialogue. By communicating together in order to understand each other’s worldview, there is hope to develop humane ways of interaction. This could prevent either side from practicing violence. Nonetheless, by using rhetorical eloquence, the two sides are being persuaded to conform to the other’s coherent story. However, I think this will produce the opposite intention and will create more hostility between the Taliban and women advocating for education. I think this approach of social eloquence and cosmopolitan communication will help diminish the violent actions that occur when the two sides of the cultural conflict interact. With rhetorical eloquence, one side is persuading the other to agree with a different worldview. This form of eloquence does not dismantle the ideology of
  14. 14. ANALYSIS PAPER 14 an enemy in the side that is being persuaded. If the use of rhetorical eloquence fails, then the disputants become frustrated again and produce another pattern of conflict. The word Taliban in Arabic means “student”. I think an effective way to create humane contact would to be to bring young Taliban members and young male and female students who want the rights to education in Pakistan together in a safe environment to talk about what it means for them to be students in their country. These two sides share comparable stories as “students” and could have the opportunity to understand one another not as villains, but as humans who have a desire to learn and to be educated. It would be very difficult at first to have the two sides to come together in humane contact since women are fearful of the repercussions of speaking openly about their worldviews and the Taliban sees anyone other than their own as an “enemy” of their worldview. However, if young children were encouraged to create this dialogue together, the opportunity for constant humane contact between the two sides could result and could combat the current violent forms of communication and interaction. This paper in itself can be a stepping stone to understanding the effects of modernistic and ethnocentric communication practiced by each side and a beginning of how to practice in order to view the conflict without trying to create an agreement to resolve the conflict. The use of cosmopolitan communication could result in the protection of many Pakistani lives if it is implemented into the language and interaction of the citizens. This cultural conflict has a complex system of historical, political, religious, and cultural laws and traditions interwoven into it. This creates difficulty when trying to bring the two sides into humane contact. However, I think that is the beauty of cosmopolitan communication. If a way to bring the Taliban and women in Pakistan together to understand one another’s worldviews and forms of
  15. 15. ANALYSIS PAPER 15 communication is created, then that is a small, but profound step into bringing the two sides into contact and hopeful transformation.