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On Taliban's Takeover of Afghanistan, the Hypocrisy of Liberals Stands Exposed

A member of Taliban forces inspects the area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

A member of Taliban forces inspects the area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

When horrors of the last few days unfolded, the same liberals, who had been asking us to not call Taliban terrorists, started shedding tears about what this would mean for the global liberal project, women and minorities

The hypocrisy of liberals is not new, but their ability to plumb new depths each day is particularly remarkable even for somebody used to it. The latest nadir even by their already low standards is the way they have reacted to the Taliban contrasted with the way they have reacted to Islamists within India and the utterly bizarre comparisons that they draw.

In India, we have long been used to so-called secular parties bestowing the “secular” honorific on the most rabidly sectarian and communal persons and groupings. For example, in 2020, we were told to believe that a gathering of barely disguised Islamofascists (protesting a law that would fast-track the citizenship application of persecuted minorities from our neighbourhood) was a “peaceful student movement”. The reality was that Shaheen Bagh was a foil created by rioters who had carried out violence at a Delhi suburb called Seelampur. Liberals completely whitewashed this fact and soon hordes of self-proclaimed “intellectuals” started descending on this charade to confer on it a halo of inclusivity and tolerance. Ignore the fact that most of them were protesting to deny persecuted minorities protections and were irate that their coreligionists across the border had been accused of said persecution. And when this allegedly peaceful protest morphed into Delhi riots, every statistical game and selective reporting whitewashed where the real culpability lay.

The phenomenon is not exclusive to India. Globally, we have seen a coming together of the most regressive Islamists, and the most self-proclaimed progressives amongst the so-called progressive into a rainbow alliance of gripe, victimhood, and unbridled hatred for the talented, intelligent and better off. Not surprisingly, the Taliban’s recent and spectacular takeover of Afghanistan has been the latest trigger for online virtue signalling by this coalition of hypocrisy and failure.

For the longest time, these liberals were advocating for a government in Afghanistan that would take all points of view on board. This was of course just jargon for accommodating the Taliban under the guise that it was in fact are legitimate representative of rural Afghanistan. While this is true they would completely gloss over the fact that the Taliban were responsible for extraordinary violence against women and their fellow Afghans. One particularly impassioned plea was to stop calling the Taliban terrorists because apparently in the warped logic of the so-called liberals a “stakeholder” cannot be a terrorist. Now, while there are many differing definitions of what constitutes a terrorist being a stakeholder or not has never made the criteria.

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When horrors of the last few days unfolded, it was the same virtue signalling liberals who had been asking us to include the Taliban in government, to not call them terrorists, and who had been normalising their brutality as “cultural relativism” started shedding tears about what this would mean for the global liberal project and women and minorities rights in general. In the space of 24 hours, the facile comparisons began.

According to one local “truth teller” with bylines in the New York Times, the only thing her followers needed to understand was that the RSS was the local equivalent of the Taliban. Needless to say US liberals and the clueless editorial boards of the New York Times and Washington Post have a great affinity for charlatans like these. After all they are quite happy to acknowledge charlatans such as Ahmed Chalabi and nonentities such as Ashraf Ghani who had no traction on the ground but knew how to socialise and tell them what they wanted to hear not what they needed to hear. Meanwhile, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body that has no constitutional validity but arrogates to itself extraordinary privileges, came out and endorsed the Taliban as a model of inclusivity, transparency, grit and determination.

However, even this phase was short-lived. Within hours a 180° turn began, where a Taliban official being interviewed by an unveiled female anchor on a local TV channel, where the Taliban seemed willing to take all questions were deemed greater transparency, and a higher from of democracy than electoral choices of the world’s largest democracy. The irony of calling a democratically elected government fascist while endorsing a government that had taken over power by force was apparently entirely lost on them.

As long as the belief remained that Taliban 2.0 was no different than the earlier Taliban, these same liberals start screeching from the rooftops about minority rights, but curiously they only used it as a segue to highlight the alleged plight of minorities in India. Mind you, these were the same people who head up until a few months back claimed that minorities were not being persecuted in India’s neighbourhood and wanted to deny them the right of getting their citizenship applications fast-tracked. When the contradiction was pointed out, they immediately changed tack, wanting us to believe that the thousands of men thronging Kabul airport were also “persecuted”. Note how disingenuously political persecution and the fear of reprisals (that have not eventuated) was conflated with religious persecution.

What then do we make of these liberals? How do we take someone who changes tack more often than a chameleon changes colours in an hour? How and when and by what measure did these clowns become the interpreters of India to the outside world and the conscience keepers of India as per the western press? Is it that India needs to introspect about its education system producing such an oversupply of buffoons, or is it the West that needs to introspect about taking these buffoons seriously? Perhaps, the answer lies somewhere in between.

Disclaimer:Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is Senior Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.)

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first published:August 18, 2021, 16:32 IST