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The Moral Rot of the Texas-Taliban Debate

Taliban forces patrol in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2021. (Stringer/Reuters)

No matter what one thinks of the Texas abortion law and the Supreme Court’s handling of it, the comparisons to the Taliban should stop.

I thought, for a second, that protesters in America finally grasped why when I read Dan McLaughlin’s home-page piece on the recent anti-Kavanaugh protest. Apparently, the organizers had urged attendees in an email to “avoid comparing U.S. abortion-restricting politicians to the Taliban.”

Right, because, well, obviously.

But their reason for this is not the reason of a normal person with empathy for other people, but rather the reason of an apologist for brutality. The rest of the note reads: “The former are a distinctly homegrown phenomenon and ignoring that in favor of such comparisons is Islamophobic. (Yes, oppressive right-wing factions are a problem wherever they are.)”

The parenthetical part seems to, in its twisted way, at least acknowledge the Taliban are a suboptimal governing body — while subordinating those concerns to the greater need for sensitivity. In reality, the only thing Islamophobic about these comparisons is their diminishment of the suffering ordinary Muslims are facing at the hands of the Taliban right now. That’s why we shouldn’t make them.

Earlier this week, Jim Geraghty relayed the following account about Afghanistan:

“We have had people shot, beheaded. They’re taking the kids. If you’re on the run, and they find your family, they’ll hurt your family and put the word out in the neighborhood that ‘we’ve got your brother or son or daughter.’ They cut off the heads of two boys that were nine and ten.”

While the description of beheaded children could not be independently verified, other reports of beheadings unfortunately have been. A recently unearthed video showed six Taliban men beheading an Afghan soldier. Christians in Afghanistan report receiving phone calls from the Taliban, pledging to behead them. A British member of Parliament said that Afghan refugees had told him of the Taliban forcing family members to watch the beheadings of their relatives. A human-rights activist in Kabul who was beaten and hospitalized said he was told by his Taliban captors, “You are acting against Islam so we are allowed to kill kafirs like you,” and two journalists said they were threatened with beheading after being beaten for covering a women’s protest.

This is the group that sliced off a guy’s arm muscles and killed him and others, recently. This is the group that normalizes stonings and amputations.

But heaven forfend that we be seen as Islamophobic by tsk-tsking the Taliban’s brutality toward other Muslims, or that we properly recognize this by not creating a moral equivalence with Texas Republicans. This is not the soft bigotry of low expectations. It is the soft bigotry of the worst-possible expectations.

Dan, as usual, said it best:

“Treat elected American officials and federal judges with more hostility than a terrorist-sponsoring tyranny that America has been at war with for 20 years and is currently beheading children” is a pretty good summary of how extremists talk themselves into extreme measures.

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