My friend, the former Muslim extremist

Nicholas Kristof writes: Whenever a Muslim carries out a terror attack in the West, the question arises: Why do they hate us?

Provocative answers come from my friend Rafiullah Kakar, who has lived a more astonishing life than almost anyone I know. Rafi is a young Pakistani who used to hate the United States and support the Taliban. His brother joined the Taliban for a time, but now I worry that the Taliban might try to kill Rafi — ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of 13 children, Rafi is a Pashtun who grew up in a mud home close to the Afghan border, in an area notorious for tribal feuds and violent clashes. His parents are illiterate farmers, and it looked as if Rafi’s education would end in the fifth grade, when he was sent to a madrasa. His mom wanted him to become a hafiz, someone who has memorized the entire Quran.

“One reason people send kids to madrasa is that a hafiz can get to paradise and take 10 other people along,” Rafi notes, explaining a local belief about getting to heaven. “My mother wanted me to be a hafiz, so I could be her ticket to paradise.” [Continue reading…]

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