Photo: Who needs a ballot box when you have a burqa?
From a group called the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, a UN- and variously European-funded research group (via Andrew Bostom) an assessment of the Afghan voter that goes beyond the "defying the Taliban" snap-narrative of the MSM. In its report, titled "Why Afghans Voted?" AREU opens by noting international media predictions of low turnout due to Taliban threats and general malaise. The report continues:
Despite these concerns and six attacks on polling stations in the capital by midday, these expectations in certain areas proved exaggerated, with voters in some parts of the province waiting in long lines and enthusiastically displaying their newly dyed fingers after exiting the polling stations. International media then interpreted these scenes as voters “defying the Taliban,” but AREU research suggests that there were other, more complex reasons for public participation in Kabul...And what might such reasons be?
Largely absent from election coverage in the international press was the importance of Islam in bringing people to the polls. Mullahs and other religious figures played an important role in encouraging participation. The district mullah spoke at a district council meeting in Qara Bagh a few days before the election, describing how it was everyone’s religious duty as a Muslim to select their leader. Other respondents described how voters should select a candidate who was a “good” Muslim (they often used the word neek, which translates simply as “good” but has strong religious connotations) or had a good understanding of Islam. As one voter described, “We vote for a candidate who is first a Muslim, second an Afghan and finally, someone who can serve his people.” Others, in response to pressure to vote for a certain candidate, pointed to the fact that the only people in the voting booth were the voter and Allah. This religious rhetoric was often mixed with the idea of national duty—one older male voter from Dasht-i Barchi told the research team that “we should vote, as it is our obligation and responsibility, just like it is our responsibility to pray.” This amalgamation of national and religious duty is unsurprising considering the tendency in Afghanistan for religious and national identity to merge.
Not just in Afghanistan. Religion and politics are merged in Islam's sacred law, sharia.
Andy further notes:
Several decades ago Bernard Lewis concluded his Encyclopedia of Islam entry with this observation, “In the final revulsion against the West, Western democracy too was rejected as a fraud and a delusion, of no value to Muslims.”
Decades later, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit report affirms Lewis’ assessment as if nothing had changed substantively, despite great, ongoing expenditure of US blood and treasure:
"…among older, more rural voters, democracy was condemned as embracing western values and moving away from tradition, reflecting more widespread concerns with the meaning of democracy in Afghanistan."