The Taliban are Not Our “Brothers”
by Collin Wynter
Maryam Monsef, previously not a household name like Justin Trudeau or Chrystia Freeland, now is known all across Canada and overseas.
While on a call with other minsters, such as the infamous Minster of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, she proclaimed the following:
“I want to take this opportunity to speak to our brothers, the Taliban. We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country.
We call on you to immediately stop the violence. The genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure including heritage buildings.”
Colloquial niceties or virtue signalling run amok?
Giving the Minster of Women and Gender Equality the benefit of the doubt, let us assume for a moment that she had the intent to build bridges and help rather than harm. She certainly was calling for them to end atrocities.
Build bridges with the Taliban?
Of course that is a ludicrous idea. Although, one that Minster of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau also hinted at just a few days back.
When asked on CBC’s Power and Politics, how the Trudeau government plans to deal with the Taliban taking control of the Afghanistan government, Garneau hedged his bet with a “wait and see” comment, considering it is “early days.”
Giving credit where it is due, host of the show, Katie Simpson, responded with incredulity, asking if he (ie: the Trudeau Government) was going to treat the Taliban with “credibility”.
The response: it depends on how the Taliban behaves. However, he did fully recognize that the Taliban’s previous dictatorial control of the country was “totally unacceptable.”
The Taliban is on the Canadian Public Safety website’s listed terrorist entities. They were listed on May 9, 2013 and last reviewed on November 21, 2018.
The Monsef Defence
Monsef has used the term “brothers” in several other contexts. Parliamentary Press Gallery journalist Dale Smith considered this to be an important factor in how to understand her comments. He thinks the situation is overblown.
Mark MacKinnon, Senior International Correspondent for the Globe and Mail, tweeted:
“Dear Canada: Maryan Monsef decided to make a plea directly to the Taliban- calling on them to allow safe passage to the airport. She’s using the language that she, as an Afghan-Canadian, feels would be most effective. Can we do the politics and point-scoring later?”
Meanwhile, a geneticist, who has a Black Lives Matter banner on her twitter profile, along with #Bioethicist listed in her bio, claimed that “you need a bit of cultural context to understand this reference.”
According to her, this is how you refer to “strange men” in Farsi/Dari.
Another individual tweeted that she ventures Monsef “might know a bit more about Afghanistan than her critics.”
Suffice to say, the responses to these tweets were not favoured in the comments.
After Garneau’s wobbly statement, the following day, Trudeau walked back his government’s position- somewhat.
Lorrie Goldstein of Toronto Sun News, points out that Trudeau’s statement is not an unequivocal condemnation of recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate government, but political double speak:
“Look, Canada has no plans to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. When they were in government 20 years ago, Canada did not recognize them as the government. They have taken over and replaced a duly elected democratic government by force and as you (the reporter) point out, they are a recognized terrorist organization under Canadian law.”
Just because the Liberal government has no plans to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan at this moment, it does not mean they will not have those plans in the future. In the meantime though, Trudeau states they are working to put pressure on them via the “international community.”
In regards to Monsef, Trudeau defended his Minister claiming that she had “expressed her views” and reiterated that his government recognizes the Taliban as a terrorist organization.
A Proper Response
Yasmine Mohammad, founder of Free Hearts Free Minds, who is also an ex-Muslim and author of Unveiled, responded to Monsef’s comments with the following:
“Absolutely despicable. Taliban would kill her if they could. She’s not a practicing Muslim, she doesn’t wear hijab, and she’s a woman in a position of leadership. All offences under their rule. But still, she decides to pander to terrorists. Appealing to them as brothers. Pathetic.”
An Afghan refugee, now Canadian citizen, Zahra Sutani writes in the Toronto Sun that “[w]ords carry meaning, and meanings imply moral positions.” So the implication of calling the Taliban “brothers” carries weight in all contexts. In Afghani culture it “recognize[s] a mutual deep respect for them”. She continues:
“It’s an endearing term to recognize a male friend as more than a friend, someone you’d take a bullet for. It is to validate the essence of that person and acknowledge the principles by which they live. The people of Afghanistan do not call the Taliban their “brothers” unless it is the Taliban themselves. To address a terrorist group — one that beheads Hazaras, Shia-Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and many other minority groups — as your “brother” is to turn a blind eye on decades of war crimes committed by the Taliban.”
Tarek Fatach, a self proclaimed Marxist in his twitter bio and author of Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, called for Monsef’s resignation in Toronto Sun. His justification? He listed examples of what a Taliban Brotherhood brings for women: condemnation through erasure in the public space, child brides, and murders.
Currently, there are reports of women going into hiding, scrubbing their social media accounts and burkas coming back into ‘fashion’.
Meanwhile, the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) “urges governments to include the Afghan women judges and their families, who are in such a desperate and precarious position, in the special measures… [to be evacuated].”
All politicians gaffe.
The Trudeau Liberals are full of them.
The pandemic is a “window of opportunity.”
And now calling the Taliban our “brothers”.
But using the ‘different culture’ defence is right in line with the virtue signalling social justice activism we see more and more in politics. It wouldn’t have been surprising if she would have used the words ‘lived experience’ at some point.
Ethnicity should not be a factor for a Canadian politician to defend what they say. A sitting parliamentarian should be well versed in the culture that they represent. The use of language is a defining factor of that understanding.
Afghanis are not the only people who use the term “brother” to refer to non-blood family members. Black culture in North America has a strong history of using the word. And it would not be surprising to find it used around the world.
As Fatima Syed responded, though, they do not refer to the Taliban as their brothers. But she does defend Monsef in her Toronto Star piece because the focus on Monsef’s words are not as important as the crisis on the ground.
When Tom Korski from Blacklock’s Reporter offered Monsef the chance to walk back her statement, she eschewed that offer.
However, Monsef does clearly state that she recognizes the Taliban as terrorists. She is “horrified” for her country of origin (she was born in Iran and grew up in Afghanistan fleeing with her family as refugee). So, one could understand her desire to wish the world a better place.
The Election Battleground
Quite an interesting take on the “brothers” gaffe comes from experienced journalist Matt Gurney. Speaking with a Torie strategist, he figures this was a bait for the Conservatives into attacking an opponent and making themselves appear to be “barbarians”.
In the video, it appears Monsef was reading talking points from a script. That she was a woman not in hijab speaking to a Canadian audience, it does seem odd to think that this was meant to be a message for the Taliban. Wouldn’t that be the job of the Foreign Affairs Minister anyways?
Erin O’Toole may be a red faced Tory, but he is handling the election campaign like a professional. Instead of being led hook line and sinker, his responded to the fiasco with: “the language used by the Trudeau government is completely unacceptable.”
So, Must Monsef Resign?
Monsef is not a Taliban sympathizer. A naive junior minister, perhaps. A puppet reading from per-scripted words. A social justice activist playing at a fictitious reality with belief in the idea that if ‘everyone could just get along’…
Whether this was a gaffe, or a political ploy, to understand the use of language and its import to society is essential when in the public eye. To demoralize Canadians, especially veterans and refugees, by implying a friendship with a known terrorist organization, is unbecoming of any politician.
Whether Trudeau decides to keep her on the back bench or include her in the growing list of MPs removed or resigned from caucus is his prerogative. But resigning from her position as Women and Gender Equality Minister, and from the Liberal cabinet may be in Canada’s best interest. Canada cannot afford to have a Minister who appears to be a supplicant to the Taliban.
A quote from this article, Afghan veterans fume over Taliban as ‘our brothers’, sums up the situation succinctly.
“Those people are certainly not our brothers.”