Saturday, June 9

Families

More is not always better, and that is true for families. But many women in Afghanistan don't realize they could choose to prevent pregnancies. Aunohita Mojumdar writes about a 37-year-old woman with 10 children for the Women's News Network: "Like most Afghan women she has little say in the decision-making of the size of her family, or her own reproductive health. She has almost no concept that the number of children she has could be a matter of choice."

Mojumdar explains the cultural forces that influence large families, including increased earning potential and additional household help.

Of course, many, multiple pregnancies can pose health risks for women and their children, particularly when health care is not widely available. Decisions about whether a woman can use birth control, even for mothers who have health complications, are made at whim by husbands and imans.

"Custom and tradition are often confused with religious edicts in Afghanistan and it has been an uphill battle for health professionals to break down these deep-seated beliefs. In order to do so, they are using religion as the clinching argument," Mojumdar writes. "The Koran, talks, for example, about the need for a woman to breastfeed her child for two years, a natural method of contraception that would ensure a gap of at least two years between delivery and conception. Afghan health professionals are using this as the main argument in favour of birth spacing."

Women find new paths. Above, Fareba Miriam is the eldest in a family of 12 and became the first woman to enroll in a para-veterinarian training program that USAID is running in Afghanistan.

Photo courtesy of USAID.

Tuesday, June 5

Dangerous

The headline to Donald Pennington's opinion essay shrieks that Islam is dangerous. He argues, "Of all the world's religions, Islam has proven time and again to be one of the greatest threats to modern thought, freedom and life."

The essay is brief, pointless provocation. Ideas are not dangerous. Neither are religions. It's what adherents do with those ideas and religions.

Back in 2007, in a review of The Paradox of a Global USA, I made the same argument about globalization:

"Imagine walking into a room, encountering a group of people vigorously debating the pros and cons of 'conversation.' One group insists that conversation delivers wealth, prosperity and good times for all. The others shake their heads and bemoan the unpleasant content that conversations can hold or undue influence they might wield. "The debate would be silly and pointless, and so too is any discourse over globalization that aims to determine whether the phenomenon is good or bad."

Beliefs shared by more than 1 billion people, as reported by ReligiousTolerance.org, are not dangerous. Intolerance is dangerous. Adherents' intense certitude that they're right, only they are right, is dangerous.

The Islamic drawing of an angel blowing a horn dates from 750 to 1258, the Abbasid Caliphate, and is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.