Today’s topic: How totalitarianism corrodes the mind, eats up the soul, and contaminates the heart? As the 2014 elections in Afghanistan approaches, I want to flashback in time to the last election. In 2009, Sayed Jalal Karim was a candidate for President of Afghanistan.
Who is he?
Mr. Jalal was a child prodigy and perhaps the greatest genius born into the Afghan gene pool. Mr. Jalal graduated from Lycee Esteqlal High School at age eight and a year later started attending Columbia University in the City of New York. The same Ivy-League, Columbia, that Dr. Ashraf Ghani and I entered as graduate students in our 20’s, Mr. Jalal entered before he even reached puberty. So what happened to Mr. Jalal who was on a trajectory to pioneer a groundbreaking innovation and ought to have won the first Nobel Peace Prize and bring national glory to Afghanistan?
The official story is that Hafizullah Amin, who also attended Columbia, demanded of Sayed Jalal’s father to return to Afghanistan after the People's Democracy Party of Afghanistan (Afghan Marxists) rose to power. After Sayed Jalal and his family returned to Kabul, both Sayed Jalal and his father were sent to the Soviet Union to attend Moscow University.
However, inside sources tell me that the reason why Mr. Jalal dropped out of Columbia and left the US, was the concern his Sayyid Muslim family had about him being socialized in promiscuous America and losing his religion. Mr. Sayed Jalal ended up in Saudi Arabia. When Afghans, recalling the whiz kid from his youth, met Mr. Jalal five years ago in his forties, they were saddened that he had become another traditional Islamist with no vision to lift Afghanistan out of poverty and turmoil. What would have happened if Sayed Jalal hadn’t lived under totalitarian communism and Islam, but instead allowed to complete his studies at Columbia University and flourish in the free world?
In my mind, Mr. Jalal’s story highlights the national tragedy of thirty million Afghans who have been trapped in dogma and unable to rise up and fulfill their potential due to war and repression keeping them down. For all Afghan and Muslim fathers and mothers, please don’t contaminate your children’s heart with the sins of religion. Instead, teach them about the arts & sciences, let them explore their identity, and focus on nurturing their strengths and talents. If I found out you are harming our children, the future generation of our nation and our world, then I will sanction you.