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Buddha demolitions raise dust in cyberspace
Ashwani Talwar

NEW DELHI (March 8): It is not just the political and religious heavyweights who have been provoked by the Taliban bombardment of the Bamiyan Buddhas. It has also struck a chord among people who go by names like Khaak, Donaa, JKabuli, Mujahed and Slider19.

Non-resident Afghans are using cyberspace to protest the Taliban demolitions. Or to defend them. On the `Afghan-web' discussion forum at least, those who want the statues saved outnumber those who want them ground to dust.

`Khaak' -- not his real name, one can be sure -- argues the Taliban are harming Islam. ``So think about it,'' he advises, ``and give up Taliban for the sake of Quran and the Prophet.''

Another "liberal", `JKabuli' confronts `Hasannh': ``You are sounding more and more like the Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalist on TV. There is more to religion than just spouting out-of-context verses and quotations.''

The forum members debate whether or not the Quran sanctions idol-breaking. And even if it does, whether it is in a different context. `Wahidullah' for one, is hard to convince.

``If the Quran says destroy idols, if Hadiz-e-Sharif says destroy idols, if Muhammed says destroy idols, I will agree with them. I will not agree with anyone who believes they should be spared,'' he says".

They debate Islam's relation with its ``pre-Islamic foundations.'' Says `Nowarnow', ``Islam and Islamic culture of today are founded on pre-Islamic traditions, but they have been reinterpreted and given Islamic meanings and functions.''

Some participants worry about non-Muslims following the Taliban example and attacking Muslim shrines. ``Can we blame those who do so in future,'' asks `Sayed H Moslih.' He argues the feeling was growing in India, and Pakistan was capitalising on it.

``If we have a Buddhist supporter among ourselves, then anything could happen.,'' `Mujahed' replies in contempt. `` What was your reaction when Indian(s) destroyed the Masjid,'' he asks.

At another site too the Bamiyan-Babri debate crops up. `Slider19' notes with some relish in `Pakistan Forum' that the Bamiyan Buddha could do nothing to protect itself. ``Is the Hindu (sic) god so weak,'' he taunts. `Roshan' replies, ``When Hindus demolished Babri, where was Allah?''

The Afghan site also throws up another theory on why the Taliban acted now: they were trying to hit out at Buddhist Thailand. Thailand's Central Bank had recently asked foreign exchange institutions to implement UN sanctions against the Taliban. This, a participant argues, hit Taliban and Osama bin Laden hard.

The West is blamed by some for worrying more about the the statues than about the plight of the Afghan people. It is also taken to task for not doing anything to stop the demolition ordered by Mulla Mohammad Omar. Countries in the "civilised world", one participant says: "Share the shame for the destruction of these religious symbols with us powerless Afghans.''

Unlike in seminars, no punches are pulled in cyberspace. You can be abusive as well as irreverent.

A participant who justifies the demolition is ribbed by another for living in exile in America, amid temples of other faiths, rather than in a country where the writ of the mullahs runs. Another wonders if the sun and moon should also be destroyed since they were worshiped by some.

``Tell me,'' asks `Donaa,' `` who will destroy the Talib idols, the ones they call Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden?''


Updated: 8-3-2001

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