8 thoughts on “Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies, New College, University of Edinburgh

  1. Bravo Mona. A TFTD that actually says something rather than the usual daily avoidance of solutions.

    I’ve often thought that when you squeeze a poor country like Afghanistan, it’s leaders are probably the ones to get squeezed last.


    1. Hear, hear, Peter, on both counts.

      Mona is pretty much the only TftD contributor who genuinely contributes insightful and congruous ‘Thoughts’. Bravo indeed.


  2. I agree with Mona that the outside world could be doing much more to help the people of Afghanistan. But if we simply unfroze the $10bn of the previous government’s assets, there would be no guarantee that they wouldn’t just be shovelled into the pockets of the various tribal Taliban factions, or at best devoted to mosques and madrassas, rather than poverty relief. If the Taliban were to allow the aid agencies free access to the whole of Afghan society, that might be a way of addressing the problem. But so far they won’t.

    I was on the HMG delegation to Tokyo in early 2002, at the conference aimed at reconstructing Afghanistan after the overthrow of the previous Taliban government. Over 50 countries were represented, and lots of spending pledges made. On the whole, the West managed to deliver, both in money for reconstruction and in security pledges (and it wasn’t just the UK and US: every NATO member, plus others such as Australia and New Zealand, provided troops and treasure). The one group of countries that has done damn all for Afghanistan is its fellow Muslim nations, despite the great wealth of many of them.

    Qatar, for instance, has been happy enough to give exiled Taliban leaders its generous hospitality for the past 20 years. How about using a bit of its sovereign wealth fund to support the Afghan people, instead of spending it on sportswashing its despotic leadership? Maybe Mona would like to have a word.


  3. Yes, a thought provoking TFTD from Mona.
    As she says, prayer and hope can indeed be hollow allies. Always are is really the truth.
    So, where and how will the Taliban learn lessons about what best to do for “their” people? From reading a religious text, answers to prayers in mosques or from international donors?
    We, and I suspect Mona, know that prayers are futile and religious texts confusing when applied to the real world, so expect (hopefully) international donors (usually meaning the West) to try to save Afghans from starvation. If it is true that over 80 percent of the Afghanistan governments’ public expenditure was covered by international aid since the US invasion, including billions on training, then the futility of the whole operation was always obvious.
    It appears that the second part of the old proverb, “If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” has failed in Afghanistan due to cultural problems (often meaning religious resistance to modernity) and we are back to “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.”
    Afghans have shown plenty of initiative in some rural areas where if you sell a poppy grower a solar powered water pump he can double his heroin production in a year.
    Meanwhile, god, as far as can be seen, is absent, as usual.


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