Published Letter; The Guardian ;25 April 2011
Madeline Bunting is somewhat harsh about Greg Mortenson of Three cups of Tea fame, who allegedly made up parts of his book (Comment, 22 April). He hasn’t had, as yet, much time to defend himself. His book’s basic message, though, isn’t to do with imperialism or feminism. It is that by building schools – especially girls’ schools – in Afghanistan andPakistan, local people, and particularly moderate tribal elders, can rescue and protect their people from extremists and the influence of fundamentalism, while fostering sustained local economic development, better health and quality of life – not least because educated women are powerful agents and catalysts for change and progress. All this can be achieved with a bottom-up approach, largely avoiding bureaucrats, politicians and the military, who tend to be either inefficient, brutal or corrupt, or all three. Hopefully his book, which is an uplifting read and a much-needed antidote to cynicism, can still, when the smoke clears, demonstrate these essential truths.