Abdul Salam Zaeef
My Life with the Taliban
Author(s): Alex Strick van Linschoten & Felix Kuehn (Eds)
Reviewed by: Iftikhar H Malik, Bath Spa University, UK
The Taliban, like several other Islamist groups, have been a frequent subject of predictable journalistic and academic outpourings often reiterating only a vicious and sexist side of their ideology, which inherently banks on staunch Wahhabi postulations. Given the pervasive views on Islam, and especially following 9/11, such a premise has become the dominant and perhaps the only narrative in English and other western languages. Amidst the longest and immensely taxing war that the 38 nations have been fighting in Afghanistan, any other alternative view on Taliban’s views of Islam or their ability to withstand and even embarrass the world’s most powerful states is certainly non-existent. While there are Muslim groups all across the world who may find affinity with the Taliban out of an element of resistance, or simply to defy their own peers and political elite, it is still very rare to find a sustained account of Taliban’s recent politics. In this context, the autobiography of Mullah Salam Zaeef—originally written in Pushto—is a welcome work which offers an alternative view on the ascendancy of the Taliban, besides offering a searing searchlight on sordid realities of detentions, renditions and dehumanisation perpetuated under the aegis of a super power and its regional and global allies. Here Ambassador Zaeef’s personal experiences in Pakistan, his dramatic arrest at the behest of General Pervez Musharraf’s regime and then a tortuous and prolonged incarceration at Guantanamo offer a powerful counterpoise to all those repetitive analyses.