Taliban Islam is a set of beliefs that masquerades as a religion and is characterized by the use of violence and brute force, suppressing or restricting the rights of women, young people, and intellectuals. This outlook is hostile to the components of the modern world, such as education, media, communications, and civic activities, and is incompatible with language, culture, and ethics. Clearly, when such an attitude takes control of a nation, it poses serious dangers, and the repercussions of such a regime cannot be accurately gauged in the long term.
Those who have resided in Afghanistan for a period of time and are well–acquainted with the daily life of its citizens concede that the Taliban‘s interpretation of Islam has many adherents and believers among the people of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban‘s return to power, the number of their supporters and those who interpret Islam violently has grown in this country. It is true that the return of the Taliban is due to a variety of internal and external causes, but it cannot be denied that a considerable portion of the population concurred with the religious views of the Taliban, which has contributed to their return.
In response to the question of why the Taliban‘s interpretation of Islam is popular in Afghan society, some people offer the most convenient analysis, providing simplistic solutions in order to quickly satisfy their audience. Humans have an instinctive tendency to seek comfort, and adherents may prefer to believe these analyses to avoid the discomfort of critical thinking. However, this approach does not provide a viable solution to the problem. Focusing on only a few factors of a phenomenon or event and disregarding the rest can lead to inaccurate conclusions and prevent us from fully understanding the issue.
A multitude of analysts employ straightforward and widely comprehended formulas for every occurrence or event, which they continually utilize for theorization and convincing the audience. However, the theories formulated in such a setting not only fail to enhance the understanding of the audience, but also distort the truth.
Over a decade ago, Abdolkarim Soroush, a renowned Iranian thinker, posed the fundamental question of whether we had degenerated due to a misunderstanding of Islam, or if we had misunderstood Islam after degenerating. This phrase was often repeated in the past, claiming that our issues were caused by a misinterpretation of religion, and no one questioned its veracity. Consequently, every thinker endeavored to eradicate the erroneous conceptions of religion from society in order to create a fertile environment for the progress and growth of Islamic society.
In the interim, a number of reformers and thinkers placed emphasis on reforming Islam and endeavored to eradicate superstitions and erroneous beliefs that had been propagated in the name of religion. Additionally, another group of them were determined to demonstrate the capability and strength of Islam to the world in addressing the issues and challenges of the present. Both groups of thinkers believed that the decline or honor of Muslims was contingent upon their interpretation of religion, and if the interpretations and common religious conceptions were adjusted and revised, the world would quickly flourish and Muslims would reach the pinnacle of honor and prosperity.
Soroush, however, rejected the notion that revising and correcting the religious perception would be enough to bring Muslims from a state of humiliation to one of progress and excellence, arguing that the idea that we have been degraded due to a misunderstanding of religion does not address the issue of what happened when we were exposed to a misunderstanding of religion repeatedly. He suggested that there must be other causes and factors at play in this transformation. According to Soroush, the fact is that we have been in a state of degeneration and backwardness since we began to misunderstand religion. Thus, the misunderstanding of religion is the result of economic, social, and political factors, not its cause. This idea explains why in Afghanistan, Taliban Islam is ruling, while in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Balkan region, different forms of Islam are in power.
The unfortunate truth is that it is not feasible for Islam to thrive and expand more effectively than Taliban Islam in a country where the inhabitants are reliant on international charity aid and are engulfed in ignorance, poverty, and suffering. In a place without a developed economy, it is not possible for literacy to rise, the urban middle class to establish itself, and the role of women in society to become more prominent. This abnormal and undesirable state of affairs is becoming increasingly popular and influential day by day.
Those who disagree with this analysis argue that by viewing religion as subordinate to economic and social conditions, we have effectively oppressed the religion and deemed its role to be insignificant and feeble. However, they fail to recognize that we are not discussing a single version of Islam, but rather a variety of interpretations that are vastly different from one another. To put it another way, we are not referring to the divinely revealed texts, but rather to incomplete and ever–changing human interpretations, which are naturally subject to the context of time and place. The distinction between our interpretation of Islam and that of more advanced Islamic countries is a result of their advancement and our own state of backwardness and decline; otherwise, the same texts are accessible to all.
On the other hand, common hermeneutic theories are based on the idea that each individual who reads religious or non–religious texts will interpret them according to their own expectations, interests, and preconceived notions, which is why we have different interpretations and conclusions from a text. Consequently, it is not feasible for someone who is entrenched in backwardness and ignorance to have a different view of religion than what is present in their mentality and daily life. It is not expected that someone whose methods of development are centuries old would accept an interpretation of Islam that is compatible with the needs of the 21st century.
It is clear that the dictators in our lands are not making enough effort to bring economic prosperity and comfort to their citizens, nor are they raising awareness. It appears that they are aware that if the people become prosperous and knowledgeable, they will not accept their rule and will challenge their authoritarian and libertarian views on religion. The perpetuation of backwardness and ignorance delays the downfall of autocratic rule and allows superstitions to spread, thus ensuring its survival for an indefinite period of time.
It is clear that there is a long and arduous journey ahead in order to eradicate regressive views of Islam from our society, and there is no easy or inexpensive solution. Unless the underlying issues of society are addressed and a resolution is found to this impasse, the discriminatory, xenophobic, and violent interpretation of Islam will remain prevalent. It is difficult to predict when our nation will be able to escape this predicament. It can be said with certainty, however, that there is no sign of hope on the horizon.