Tomorrow I will roll out in a convoy of up-armored HUMVEES heading to a small town in Afghanistan to witness the opening of a school constructed by the Afghan government along with the help of coalition forces. En route, we will see dozens of small children and they will run to the edge of the road and smile and wave. We will wave back and our gunners will toss out small bags containing candy, shoes, pencils, pens, toothbrushes etc. Many of these children will be girls...these little girls break my heart and remind me why I am an atheist.
You see, the school we are opening is for boys only. The Pashtun culture places very little value on women, much less the education of women. So when I see these little girls laughing and smiling, it saddens me because I know I am seeing them at possibly the happiest time in their life. I know that in ten or twelve years they will be someone's property.
They will be wed to some man who will treat them only slightly better than he does his livestock and feel no remorse in doing so. A man who has been taught since he was a little boy that such is the way of the world and such is a woman's place in it...and he has been taught this as part of his religion.
Now I know some wise-ass is going to read this and say "That's not what Islam teaches! Those behaviours are derived from tribal customs, not from the Koran!" I concede that may be true. But for those little girls who will wave at my convoy tomorrow, that bleak future is most likely the only Islam they will ever know.
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