The Islamist Factor

The Islamist Factor

Political ingenuity and combat sophistication were largely attributable tothe Islamists, often referred to as fundamentalists. By the end of the 1970s,some thousands of Afghan male students had graduated from government run madrasas,that is, higher level schools for Islamic study, roughly equivalent to secondaryeducation. Other thousands had studied at Kabul University and the technicalinstitutions that were clustered at there. Many retained or strengthened theirfaith in Islam during their studies (many of the others joined Khalq andParcham). Most also had rural roots and had returned home in the aftermath ofthe Marxist takeover of Kabul. Their combination of religious belief andexposure to modern ideas and knowledge provided the basis for their uniquecontribution to the mujahidin cause.

Thus, not all Afghans with modern educations fled or served the Marxistgovernment. Many in the rural sector of the emerging middle class contributedIslamist views of Afghanistan's predicament. Accepting the value of suchfeatures of modern civilization as natural science, technological innovation,economic progress and popular government, Islamists claimed that theseachievements were compatible with Islam. They argued that Muslim morality wasconsistent with different human conditions and achievements and that there couldbe an Islamist way of applying modern forms of government and economic progressto Afghan society. Their vision, skills, and commitment were vital to themujahidin cause. Many were among the most effective commanders. Othersparticipated in the military and political arrangements linking fighting unitsto the expatriate parties. They also staffed the bureaucracies of those parties.

True to the nature of their society, Afghan Islamists did not reach aconsensus on solving the riddle of Afghanistan's future. They also clashed withtheir more orthodox colleagues in the resistance. They offered informedleadership after usurpation, war and flight left the rural population withouturban leadership.

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