I am always amused and impressed by the cartoons of famous Afghan caricaturist Alizada, who is affiliated with the Afghanistan Group of Newspapers–which publishes the English-language daily Outlook Afghanistan and Dari, Daily Afghanistan. He has experience of over 20 years in this field. I am also impressed by his working style. Most of the times I see him working in office for hours, on one caricature. The other day I saw a cartoon of him about the recent crackdown on internet cafes in Kabul. In the above cartoon, the hand with a lock reflects Government and the comment on left side reads ‘Government crackdown for Internet-censorship’.
Sometimes I think our society is a complex amalgam of double-standards, corrupt and highly sensitive culture with the so-called sense of honor. The Government sometimes take steps that apparently seem funny to make us laugh, but actually we should cry on the state of our collective conscience. While talking about the honor (ghairat) and morality, we burst out of pride, but actually we are very corrupt morally. I have seen people doing all corrupt things, but when it comes to honor, and the false pride rather extremism towards faith, they are ready to die. While thinking of the strictly religious society of ours, one should assume our strong faith must make us morally good. But the facts are opposite.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has shut down 17 internet cafes in the heart of capital Kabul. These cybercafes are alleged to have allowed access to ‘immoral websites’, or in clear words pornographic and ‘un-Islamic’ web-pages. Pornography has a clear definition–though yet controversial in Afghanistan when I see the blur on a sleeveless lady’s arm, or shoulders in TV serials–but one does not understand the limit of what can be Islamic and un-Islamic when it comes to reading material and surfing on the internet. According to the law and constitution, ‘un-Islamic’ websites are not allowed. But the Government can shut down anything with an excuse of Islamic/Unislamic.
As a society, it shows the mental problems of people when Mullahs preach about it days and nights, reminding them the horrifying punishments for such sins, but still people defy the laws, their moral conscience and call of faith by surfing hours on pornographic websites. It shows the collective moral corruption of a so-called faithful society. If statistics come out about what percentage of internet users excessively visit the porn websites, it would be an explosion of the honor-balloon of this society.
The Government cannot control it. There are thousands of such pornographic websites and pages. The Telecommunications Authority can only ban some prominent websites known by everyone, but there are thousands of such pages out there. Even the internet cafe owners cannot control the customers through their blocking-softwares. By shutting down the internet cafes, it’s no solution. Internet users in Afghanistan are very few, mostly in capital Kabul. People don’t have access to internet connectivity at homes through broadband or other services widely, thus most go to the net cafes. A crackdown on cafes will cause problems for the little number of people who need surfing for study and other needs, but the graph of pornographic surfing won’t decrease.
With a large number of people, the apparent religious extremism and fundamentalism is just fake. I have seen such people doing all-out sins, but still getting fiery when there is a discussion about infidels and such. It is a collective psychological problem that we related our fake-extremism towards faith with morality. Being one of the most conservative Muslim societies, there should be none of the sins forbidden by our religion. But actually the more we are religiously conservative and extreme, the more there are social crimes and corruption. And our sick mentality is that we are in a continued state of self-denial about it, in our own minds. We don’t admit the facts. We know the moral corruption in our society, but deny them as strongly as it does not exist at all. For instance, homosexuality is considered religiously and morally a sin in our culture. But studies show the facts about homosexuality in the heart of militant extremism Kandahar, and boy-keeping culture in North. Everyone knows about it, but still the practices are common, with a continued self-denial. The problems lie deep into the foundations of our social system, lifestyle, society and cultural sensitivity.