Monday, May 12, 2014

Tomorrow's book review corrections today

In the New York Times Book Review, Isaac Chotiner review's John Keay's Midnight's Descendants --

One of Keay’s rare missteps comes in reference to the Shariah law that Taliban fanatics introduced in the Pakistani district of Swat several years ago. “Almost no one recalled that Shariah had a long pedigree in Swat, and might not be entirely distasteful to the Swatis,” he writes. “Though rough and gender-biased, it . . . ensured the security of property and persons.” To describe Taliban rule as ­“gender-biased” is euphemistic at best — and presumably the people publicly executed by the Taliban are not the ones whose security was “ensured.” Moreover, I wonder how Keay knows their rule wasn’t “distasteful.” I’m not aware of P.T.A. meetings at shuttered girls schools, with everyone voicing feelings and opinions.

Actual quote from Keay's book --

Almost no one recalled that sharia had a long history in Swat and might not be entirely distasteful to the Swatis. Though rough and gender-biased, it slashed the crime rate, ensured the security of property and persons, and was a more effective deterrent than the slow, corrupt, and painfully overloaded judicial system operating in the rest of Pakistan.

Keay is comparing Sharia in Swat to the judicial system in the rest of Pakistan - this would be the judicial system charging 9 month old babies with attempted murder (the perp being finger-printed shown above). And the more general point that Sharia is at least providing rules when the alternative is abuse of power and anarchy is important in understanding the appeal of the Taliban.