Chris Ke-Sihai

Speculative Thinker, Enspyre


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One Laptop Per Taliban

The biggest single problem in some areas of the world is that one particular group has a monopoly on 'the truth' and are able to maintain that monopoly by restricting access to information. In places like Afghanistan, where few people have access to education, religious authority is claimed by people who are free to interpret The Koran as they see fit.

In fact, Taliban actually means 'students' in reference to the organisations' powerbase in the religious schools of the region. The schools, known as 'madrassas,' apparently teach a very restrictive interpretation of Islam that most modern muslims would be uncomfortable with.

It's a bit like the situation in medieval Europe where a corrupt and intolerant church pursued it's own agenda, claiming moral authority to do so. The difference is that even though different interpretations exist, there is no equivalent of the Gutenberg press in Afghanistan, because nobody can read.

But in the modern world, we do have computers and interactive programming, and media files. We also have intiatives such as "A Common Word," sponsored by King Abdullah of Jordan and endorsed by most of the world's leading Islamic scholars. The aim of this initiative is to remind people the world over that Judasim, Christianity and Islam all have one common message at the centre - compassion, love and respect for others.

Meet, eg the people behind The Tafsir Project and collaborate with them to create a multi-media foundation course in Islam for beginners. Leading scholars from all over the muslim world introduce their favourite lessons, and you create visuals to go with them and add translated commentary.

Then you load the whole thing onto a hundred thousand (or a million) XO laptops, or ruggedised mobile phones, and any other suitable device, and distribute throughout Afghanistan, not just to schools but to individuals. Pretty soon everyone has a talking Koran at home, telling them the truth that the Taliban want to keep from them.