10/15/2012 10:42 am ET Updated Dec 15, 2012

What the Taliban Doesn't Know About Islam

The shooting of 14-year-old Malalai Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist, is horrific and tragic. She had the
courage to work for the rights of Muslim women in Pakistan and oppose the despotism of the Taliban.
She was nominated last year for the International Children's Peace Prize.

I've always wondered, from a young age to now age 49 as a religious scholar, what Christians, Muslims and
Jews don't understand about "do not murder" -- from the Torah for Jews, from the Christian New Testament with Jesus
saying "love your enemy" and from the Qur'an, namely to "do not kill innocent persons and especially
children." I'm constantly in shock and confusion over the lack of understanding of this very basic

I could go on and on quoting (in context) from the Abrahamic religions on not killing
children and women. Pakistan is 44 percent illiterate. Until education is improved, violence will continue
there and other places. It is true that the Qur'an and Hadith collection (sayings of the Prophet) from the
Islamic tradition has its share of violence references, as does the Hebrew Bible and the Christian NT, but
understanding these in context through education would clearly demonstrate that these are merely
symbolic stories of good fighting evil forces.

Young Malalai Yousafzai is indeed a visionary for
women's rights in Islam but this is not a new concept. The Prophet in the Islamic tradition, Muhammad,
was summoned and asked by his first wife and longtime companion Khadija for him to marry her. If
this is not a prime example of women's equality in Islam then I don't know what is.

Another interesting
story from the Qur'an and the Hadith collection refers to women being unruly in the household in the
front of their husbands and families. The edict from the Qur'an is for the husband to beat her lightly.
The Prophet was asked about this by one of his companions: "How and what do I use to beat her
lightly?" The Prophet responded by holding up his toothbrush.

How important it is to understand these
religious books in context, namely historically, culturally and socio-economically. The basic precepts of
all the Abrahamic religions are love, justice and caring for the poor. In particular in the Islamic
tradition, pillars of faith are central to the religion and signify caring for the poor particularly woman
and children. And during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast to share in the suffering of the poor by remembering those persons who don't have enough to eat on a daily basis.

What is it about all this that
the Taliban does not understand?