Why terrorists don’t want girls to be educated?

We are all in the midst of fighting the virus. Economies are struggling and public health is at risk. People who were disadvantaged, to begin with, are having a harder time. Domestic violence cases are rising and kids who relied on schools for meals and education are losing out.

These tough times have some advantages for people who can work remotely and are financially secure. These people are not commuting and getting more done. Since these people are not socializing outside of the home, they are reading more. I am one of them.

My friend sent a book for my daughter for her 12th birthday. It’s called “I Am Malala”. I (instead of my daughter) read through the 240-page book in a day. I was familiar with Malala’s general story about how she was an activist for the girls’ right to education and how she was shot in the head by the Taliban.

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Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala

What was interesting was how the Taliban took over the Western region of Pakistan and what they wanted to achieve there. Malala’s writing is very simple and endearing but she does a good job of conveying the terror of the Taliban.

I am not writing this to either praise Malala or to disagree with her.  I am writing this because she has a very good story to tell about education.

The Taliban used religion and propaganda to pursue their interests in Pakistan. This also shows how fundamentalism and lack of education can feed into each other in a vicious cycle. Their propaganda was that the Earthquake in Pakistan in the Swat region (this is where Malala’s family lived) was a message from Allah for Muslims to stop doing anything which The Taliban thought was against Islam. That included educating girls, watching information about the outside world, and women going outside without male members of their family. This is the exact coercion technique abusers use to control their abusees.  More and more people believed in this propaganda, partly because of fear and partly because of their lack of education. Now this is how a vicious cycle develops. You believe in it because of your lack of education and then you decide to not educate your child because of it, leaving her vulnerable to be manipulated by the terrorists in the future (and as a result promoting more fundamentalism). Of course, those who did not believe in it and dissented were punished and made an example of. One such girl was Malala, who along with her father continued to be activists even when the Taliban was ruling the region.

So why do these terrorists focus so much on restraining girls and women?

One of the reasons is indeed demographics. Studies suggest that on average families where the women are educated tend to have fewer children (Please don’t misconstrue this to think that families with more children don’t have educated mothers. A statistic does not always tell the story of an individual case). The fundamentalists tend to worry a lot about the numbers in their groups, whether it’s religion, race, or a cult. Educating girls means that their numbers will not rise as fast as they would like.

The other reason is the desire for more power and control in pushing their agenda. The agenda is multi-fold whether it is seeking an identity, power, and control itself or plain simple greed. Because culture begets culture, promoting a toxic masculine culture would mean that they will find more recruits for their agenda. This will keep women on the sidelines (without education, rights, and resources), unable to prevent this brew of fundamentalism and toxic masculinity from taking over the society.

So what should we do?

I think the moral of the story is to not forget that for a lot of the problems of society today, we can attribute the blame to three main factors- systems, parenting, and lack of education. We can contribute to the betterment of one or more of these factors. If you are a parent, don’t abuse children emotionally and physically and don’t create a toxic atmosphere for them. Instill resilience in them and expose them to education. For everyone else, remember education is not only beneficial for someone else’s child, but it is also a benefit to society in general. Encouraging and supporting better education systems is the primary task of a civilized society. Education has shown to reduce many negative metrics in societies- from poverty to the population explosion to fundamentalism. Let’s take a vow to support healthy education and make the world a better place to live. 

Truth and Lies in times of Coronavirus

I like to be the voice of reason and I feel so disappointed when I see unreasonable and unreliable information thrown around as nuggets of truth. In these times of uncertainty, people have a lot of questions and the internet is full of conspiracy theories and unvalidated information. Here is my attempt to demystify some of this information. I have consulted reliable sources but you are welcome to do your own due diligence.

Let’s focus today on the origins of Sars Cov-2 virus, shortened as Coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

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A picture of Coronavirus on the CDC website

Was Coronavirus synthesized in the lab in China?

No, Coronaviruses are not uncommon viruses. What is uncommon is the jumping over to humans. Scientists who have studied genome sequences of this novel Coronavirus are saying that the origins seem natural and not synthesized. Please don’t believe conspiracy theory websites that claim that China synthesized it as a Bioweapon. China has been badly affected by the virus itself.

Did Coronavirus escape a lab in Wuhan China?

Wuhan has a virology lab, which is Level-4 certified, the highest Biosafety certification where viruses like Ebola and Coronaviruses are studied for the benefit of humanity so that we can avoid such pandemics. It is possible that lax lab standards could have lead to the virus escaping the lab. However, even if that happened, it was still not synthesized in the lab.

Who should be blamed for this problem?

The lion’s share of the blame goes to China (the country, it’s Government and not the Chinese people in general, it’s very important to maintain this distinction and not move into any Xenophobic territory). If the virus jumped over from bats to Pangolin (or some other animal) and then to humans in the Wuhan wet markets, then China’s practice of wildlife farming is to be blamed. If it escaped the Wuhan lab, even then the lax policies at the lab are to be blamed. 

What are other reasons China deserves some blame?

There is absolutely no doubt about it that China was extremely slow and not fully transparent about the outbreak. It does deserve blame for not being forthright and leaving the World in the dark and unprepared.

What were the safety concerns at the Wuhan lab?

The US officials, in 2018, during Trump’s presidency,  after visiting the Wuhan lab, sent back concerns to the US that the policies at the lab were lax and there were management issues. We don’t know if the US did anything about it.

Why does President Trump keep bringing up President Obama?

This one is easy.  He is probably looking for an escape goat. These virology labs in China were set up with Western help, France and United States, since China had the history of epidemics which could lead to Pandemics and the West wanted China to study this carefully to avoid future incidents. Just because the labs had received research grant money in 2015 (during Obama’s presidency)  from the US, President Trump thought of an ingenious idea of blaming President Obama ahead of time so that if the 2018 safety reports come into the picture (as mentioned above), he could say Obama funded it instead of saying I did not pay attention to the safety concerns! I am sure President Trump is working hard on fighting this virus but it doesn’t suit a US President to deflect blame to where it doesn’t belong.

Was US the first country to ban travel to and from China?

38 countries, which includes New Zealand,  did it around the same time or before the US. For eg. Italy’s ban on travel to China was more strict than the US ban and started before the US ban.  However, among the economically powerful G-20 countries, Italy and Australia were the only ones to do it before the US (good job USA). India’s and Indonesia’s travel ban to China went into effect along with the US.

Is US the worst hit country by this virus?

No. At the time of writing this, it is NOT. I made a video (which I have not shared with the public yet) on the numbers two weeks ago which will help you appreciate the per capita numbers better. Even today, USA is behind (behind is good here) at least 12 other countries when it comes to Deaths/million.  You can watch Understanding Coronavirus numbers.  US has tested 3.9 million people (population 330 million), which is the highest in the world but since it’s population is high as well, it’s lagging behind ~40 countries on tests/million. However, it has done much better than at least 150 other countries, when it comes to testing/million. Paying attention to number of cases is not very useful because that number is just a positively correlated function of number of tests.

Does it mean that we are out of danger in the US?

No. This is because we won’t be out of danger until a vaccine is available. All these precautions were taken to slow down the spread so that the medical system is not overwhelmed. Reopening the economy slowly, with a lot of precautions, testing and contact tracing is the way to go. The idea is to constrain the speed of the spread so that from today until the vaccine is available, even if we build herd immunity naturally (at the expense of a lot of deaths which is not preferable), the number of deaths will still be much lower than the number of deaths that would have occurred had we done nothing. This is because a lot of lives are unnecessarily lost when too many people need hospitalizations, ICUs and ventilators at the same time.

I hope this information was helpful and will help guide you in forming a coherent opinion on this topic instead of believing all the conspiracy theories you hear on both mainstream media and social media.