Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Gentle infidel (Have you read this book?)

Despite a fatwa declared on him, Greg Mortenson continued to build schools and vocational centers in Northern Pakistan.  In deference of the nation and their religion, Mortenson promised other religious leaders that if they thought he was doing anything against Islam, he would leave Pakistan forever. Later, he faced "the eight imposing black-turbaned members of the Council of Mullahs," to receive his fate.

"With due ceremony, Syed Abbas tiled back the lid of the box, withdrew a scroll of parchment wrapped in red ribbon, unfurled it, and revealed Mortenson's future. 'Dear Compassionate of the Poor,' he translated from the elegant Farsi calligraphy, 'our Holy Koran tells us all children should receive education, including our daughters and sisters. Your noble work follows the highest principles of Islam, to tend to the poor and sick. In the Holy Koran there is no law to prohibit an infidel from providing assistance to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Therefore,' the decree concluded, 'we direct all clerics in Pakistan to not interfere with your noble intentions. You have our permission, blessings, and prayers.'"

Khanday Schoolgirls with new uniforms. Pakistan.

Later, "after attending a conference of development experts in Bangladesh, Mortenson decided CAI schools should educate students only up through the fifth grade and focus on increasing the enrollment of girls. 'Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities,' Mortenson explains. 'But the girls stay home, become leaders int he community, and pass on what they've learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.'"

Kashmiri refugees in school. Pakistan.

..."Cricket hero Imran Khan had become a sort of secular saint. And rippling out from Mortenson's headquarters in Skardu, over the parched dunes, through the twisting gorges, and up the weatherbound valleys of Baltistan, the legend of a gentle infidel called Dr. Greg was likewise growing." (Three Cups of Tea)

Greg Mortenson with Gultori schoolchildren. Pakistan.

(Photos courtesy Central Asia Institute

Buy Three Cups of Tea and (my next read Stones into Schools) through the website ThreeCupsofTea and 7 percent of all your book purchases will go toward a girls' education scholarship fun in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

1 comment:

Khulud Khamis said...

what a wonderful post. I was especially moved by Greg's emphasis on the education of girls. It's so true.