Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Kandahar

November 17, 2006

“On the TV screen, two naked young women writhe together to the sounds of Hotel California as the occasional crackle of gunfire punctuates the Afghan night.” (more)

You better believe it, we are talking about the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

Sarah Chayes can be vindicated for attaching the importance that she does in her book The Punishment to Virtue to Kandahar as the gateway of all things to Afghanistan, it’s virtual capital, Afghanistan’s New York to its Washington, D.C. of Kabul. Ahmad Shah Abdali was enthroned there, the British made their way into Afghanistan through its gates, the Taliban emerged and took root there, and Afghanistan’s first democratically-elected president is a Kandahari. And now, well, now Kandahar is the hub of pornography, alcohol, and assorted illegal drugs, both for domestic consumption as well as a transit route for Iran.

I have to admit that all this strikes me as a little odd. How can the same place that spawned the Taliban -reactionary, fundamentalist zealots bent on banning music and regulating morality- also be the bustling ground of all things vile and hedonistic a mere five years after their fall from power? Something just does not add up.

But then again, should we be really surprised? Two years ago Salman Rushdie famously claimed in his essay The East is Blue that internet pornography usage was disproportionately high in some of the most repressive Muslim countries, because while “while pornography exists everywhere… when it comes into societies in which it’s difficult for young men and women to get together and do what young men and women often like doing, it satisfies a more general need…” and “While doing so, it sometimes becomes a kind of standard-bearer for freedom, even civilisation…”

On a related note, Kandahar is also dubbed “The Gay Capital of South Asia,” and enjoys the flamboyant reputation of the most homoerotic city in Afghanistan (although most homosexual behavior in Kandahar would qualify for pederasty than homosexuality.) (Read Kandahar Comes Out of Closet and The Kandahar Frolic)

With all this goings on, some have taken to suggesting that the infamous PVPV department should be brought back in. As the experience with the Taliban has revealed, repression will not only not work, but is often counterproductive. As Chayes’s book title suggests, a PVPV would most likely result in Promotion of Vice and the Punishment of Virtue.


Disturbing Incident of Police Brutality in UCLA

November 17, 2006

Excerpt below taken from the description of a video of the incident posted on YouTube:

An Iranian-American UCLA student was shot by UCLA’S UCPD November 14th 2006, because he could not show his Student ID. He was shot 5 times with a taser gun. Police threatened to shoot students who got too close. The Student yelled out that he had a medical condition, but the cops kept shooting…” 

Mostafa Tabatabainejad, a UCLA student of Iranian descent refused to show his ID when asked because “he thought he was being singled out because of his Middle Eastern appearance.” (LA Times article about the incident.) UCLA students have organized a protest for today (specifically warning against rioters and instigators), and CAIR-LA has called for an independent investigation into the case. Earlier, in an apparently unrelated development, a manufacturer of the device honored four police officers for “extraordinary use of taser guns to save lives (related article.)

Needless to say, the incident should be investigated and the officers involved rebuked for excessive use of force.

However, if the singling out of the Iranian student and the excessive use of force against him is proven to to be motivated by the student’s Muslim/Middle Eastern heritage, as it appears to be, then it is symptomatic of a wider problem in the attitude of the law enforcement officials towards, and in their dealings with persons of Muslim/Middle Eastern/South Asian descent (a problem not without precedents in the case of other minorities in this country) and should be debated vigorously.

Thanks to hatif for the heads-up.

Don’t Miss this Weekend

November 17, 2006

1. Ted Koppel reporting on Iran – The veteran journalist who conscientiously objected to the dismal, ratings-driven state of cable news and resigned as ABC Nightline’s longtime host was granted rare access to various levels of Iranian life and is premiering his gatherings this Sunday at 9pm EST on Discovery Channel. The title (“Koppel: Iran – The most Dangerous Nation“) while seemingly alarmist (I think it is), is intriguing nonetheless. Maybe I will write a review here after I watch it. Note: If you are into podcasts, subscribe to Discovery’s video podcast “Ask Ted Koppel,” where in the latest episode Ted answers a question I sent in (there goes all my anonymity!) on whether after the Democratic victory in the US Congress committment to Afghanistan will wane.

2. Two veritable Kings and one Queen of comedy get together on Saturday to host Comic Relief 2006 for Hurricane Katrina. Billy Cystal, Whoopie Goldberg, and Robin Williams are co-hosting -do you need any other reasons? Yes? John Stewart and Stephan Colbert will make appearances too. I am especially a big fan of Robin William’s brand of wit and humor (next to George Carlin whimsical linguistic observations of course.) Comic Relef 2006 airs live this Saturday at 9pm EST on HBO and TBS.