Monday, March 19, 2007

Censorship by Bomb

One of the most disturbing developments of the last several years has the ability of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to cement their hold over the tribal areas of Northwest Pakistan. Just as when the Taliban ruled neighboring Afghanistan, the imposition of radical Islamist rule has been accompanied by a brutal assault on intellectual freedom. Agence France Presse reports the most recent example:

A homemade bomb in a Pakistan market damaged four music and video shops Sunday just weeks after their owners refused an order to close down from Islamic hardliners.

Police said two people - a guard and a passerby - were injured in the blast at a market in Peshawar, the largest city in the deeply conservative North West Frontier Province along the border with Afghanistan.

One of the shopowners, Bashir Khan, said that hardliners calling themselves the "Soldiers of Islam" had left him a note several weeks ago, saying that music shops in the Gulshan market should close their doors.

As the article makes clear, this was not an isolated incident:

The province has seen previous attacks on video and music shops blamed on extremists emulating the ultra-Orthodox Taliban, who ruled neighboring Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

There has been growing concern about the "Talibanization" of Pakistan and the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in tribal areas.

Last week, two men and a woman were stoned and shot to death for adultery in a tribal area.

The nascent Afghan democracy and the Musharraf regime in Pakistan are far from perfect, and each has its own intellectual freedom issues. Allowing them to be supplanted by the tribal totalitarianism of the Taliban, however, would be a major victory for radical Islamism over those Muslims who believe in free thought and expression.


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