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Jewish World Review Oct. 17, 2001 / 30 Tishrei 5762

David Weinberger

David Weinberger
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Consumer Reports

Pinpoint hatred -- LIKE you, I was emailed multiple versions of the following suggestion about what to do with Osama bin Laden:

Killing him will only create a martyr. "Holding him prisoner will inspire his comrades to take hostages to demand his release. Therefore, I suggest we do neither.

Let the SAS, Seals or whatever, covertly capture him, fly him to an undisclosed hospital and have surgeons quickly perform a complete sex change operation. Then we return 'her' to Afghanistan to live as a woman under the Taliban.

I laughed at first, but it later struck me that this really gets it backwards.

Here's what the Taliban says about its treatment of women:

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is fully committed to the social, cultural and economic development of women. The government has been able to protect the honor, life and property of Afghan women. Contrary to the situation before Taliban women can now be outside their houses safely without the fear of being kidnapped, violated or looted. They no longer fear conditions that were common before...

...After the communists took over in Kabul, they began to exploit women for the purpose of advancing their political and social agendas. In spite of war condition in the country and with no work in the offices, the communist regime forced a large number of women to attend government offices only for their amusement. The Islamic Emirate decided to pay the salaries of these women at their homes, so that they could stay home and take care of their families and children. The purpose of this policy is to help revive the Afghan family and household, as the foundation of the Afghan society, a foundation that was intentionally destroyed by the communist regime. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is determined to provide educational and employment opportunities for the women of Afghanistan, as soon as the security and financial circumstances under which the Islamic Emirate operates allow such a step to be taken...

This and other propaganda can be found at (There's more on women at For example, toward the end of an article on how the Taliban supports religious tolerance is the following:

Recently some people declared that the demolition of Buddhist statues in a country with no Buddhist minority violated Islam's teachings on religious tolerance. They forgot that religious tolerance means accommodation to religious minorities; it does not mean undermining the majority.

A state that thinks the existence of ancient statues threatens the religious rights of the majority is wound just a tad too tight, wouldn't you say?

Short of outright slavery and genital mutilation, the Taliban could not do much more to oppress women. But, they and Osama bin Laden are quite likely convinced that their version of Islam honors women and that Westerners treat women as sex objects: our women flaunt themselves half-naked, etc. etc. etc. Other Islamic societies point to the high rate of rape in the West. Of course, to us the Taliban's treatment of women looks like a type of slow and continuous rape. And there is evidence that the Taliban routinely abduct and rape women from the groups who oppose them. But at least some of the Taliban undoubtedly believe that they are honoring women by keeping them in their divinely ordained place. Therefore, if we're going to punish bin Laden by changing his sex, we should probably give him gigantic breast implants and make him work as a stripper at a club in the surburbs of Baltimore.

We have enough reasons to hate bin Laden without needing to claim that he's a hypocrite.

JWR contributor David Weinberger writes and speaks about the Web's effect on business and culture. The co-author of the national best-seller, The Cluetrain Manifesto, , which InformationWeek called "The most important business book since [Tom Peters'] In Search of Excellence," his work appears regularly some of the technology industry's most important publications. He is the publisher of The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, David Weinberger