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VIEW: The X-Factor -Gulmina Bilal Ahmad.

Pakistan, May 14 -- Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Perhaps I should also add that hell has no fury like a woman persecuted by her guilt complex. The hell in this case is the Swat Taliban and the guilt is the Swat women's support to the TTP. The rise, takeover and fall of Taliban militancy in the Swat region points to many loopholes of our societal system. One of the less debated loopholes is how the Taliban led by Mullah Fazlullah used and manipulated women of this region to win their sympathies. It was after the Taliban militants showed their real face that people turned against them and it finally led to a military intervention.

One of the ignored angles is the women's support to Mullah Fazlullah. This was used to manipulate the women of the region to win their sympathies. This is ironical as for us the Afghan experience showed that women bore the brunt of the Taliban fury. So, why did the women support the Taliban? It is a well-documented fact that some of the women even went to the extent of giving away their precious gold jewellery in the so-called great cause. What manipulation techniques led to this are worth studying. We are all aware of the atrocities of the Taliban against women from 1996 to 2001 in Afghanistan until the US intervened. So what made the women of Swat put their trust in these militants? A woman belonging to this area is not very familiar with the concept of the outside world, so how did Mullah Fazlullah's message reach her? How did the 'ideological indoctrination' take place?

To find a possible answer to all these queries, we have to look into the political history and the psychology of it. The answer might be simple but may sound a little out of league for the Taliban. The Taliban understand that brainwashing is a system of befogging the brain so a person can be seduced into approval of what otherwise would be detestable to him or her, i.e. their idea of Islam.

The tool or the communication channel used was the media, radio to be precise. Mullah Fazlullah was also known by the name of 'Mullah FM' in this area. The reason for this epithet was his flirting with the microphone. The women of Swat mostly stay indoors and men used to go out. While at home, radio provided a good source of overcoming boredom. This was exploited by the Taliban. Mullah Fazlullah used to give his own translations of the Quran and lure women more in the Taliban's favour by mixing up concepts of Islam and social security for women. He was able to lure the women of the area to accept and appreciate his 'quack faith'.

Women are undoubtedly called the building blocks of any household with the male being the resource generator. The importance of women in a household may not be documented but being the members of this society, we do know that women get to play a role internally. But by that I do not mean that women in Swat were entirely free to make their own choices. So the hope or wish for more did exist in the women and Fazlullah was smart to cash in on that. He promised women autonomy because the religion promotes it. The way he proved it was by declaring that it is illegal for a woman to talk to her brother-in-law according to Islamic principles, and this gave a very 'Islamic reason' to many women to ask for a separate home to protect their 'Islamic stature'.

As Peshawar-based security analyst Mr Khalid Aziz narrates, "In the case of the women of Swat, the initial attack is on her normal identity as a person living her life within the parameters of a relatively liberal Pakhtun cultural tradition. The attack by the Taliban on the women is gender-specific, and it slowly strips her of decency and she begins to think of herself as an evil entity." A psychiatrist who studied the technique of brainwashing gave a 10-step process that begins with an assault on the identity of a person, leads to the creation of guilt and ends with the birth of a new personality. Applying the same theory on the women of Swat, we see that it was subtle manipulation that won Mullah Fazlullah their sympathy.

The same brainwashing theory can be applied for Faisal Shahzad, the alleged bomber of Times Square in NYC. In a layman's terminology, he was living an 'American Dream'. He had a decent enough house, ample money, a loving wife, an educated and influential background and a promising future. So, what led him on the path of self-destruction? It was the guilt. The induced guilt of him not being a servant to God and not doing anything that would earn him heaven in the end. It was the guilt trip that led Faisal to take the trip to Times Square.

Although the Swat episode has ended now and the Faisal Shahzad episode is semi-closed with the main culprit in custody, the question still remains: are there more left out there with some guilt in their hearts or minds? If yes, then we should be ready to face the same again. The long-term sustainability of peace in any region is directly proportional to the level of mental health of its people. It is the dire responsibility of civil society groups to know and address the "identity issue" in this area, especially in youth and women. We need to work very effectively to curtail the effect of negatively induced ideologies in women and youth, and maybe 'reverse engineering' would be the order of the day.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Daily Times. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:Daily Times (Lahore, Pakistan)
Date:May 14, 2010
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