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Faithless Vandalism
The Times of India

Ignoring the protests and outrage voiced by many countries, including Pakistan, the Taliban has announced that demolition of the Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan and elsewhere in Afghanistan has already begun. The justification for this act of vandalism is the assertion that idols are un-Islamic. The Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, has pointed out that these sculptures are not idols, as they are not worshipped. But as far as the Taliban leadership is concerned, such reasoned arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Coming as it does in the wake of UN sanctions on the Taliban regime, this outright rejection of humanistic norms and cultural values will inevitably be interpreted as unequivocal defiance of the international community. The Taliban appears to be bent on validating the western thesis about the ``clash of civilisations''. These statues and sculptures date back to a period before Afghanistan came under Islam. They are part of Afghan heritage, and through these acts of destruction the Taliban leadership presumably wants to wipe out the pre-Islamic history of its own people. This cultural obliteration recalls the Nazi propagandists' decree to burn all books that did not conform to their thought and philosophy. Consequently, the global community would be justified in treating the Taliban as an international security problem and take a united stand against it before it goes any further.

The world will now be watching the reactions of other Islamic governments and the Islamic clergy. If they do not come out to condemn this outrage as un-Islamic, and isolate the fanatics acting in the name of Islam, it would serve only to strengthen the dogmatism of all those who subscribe to the ``clash of civilisations'' formula. In other words, this act of vandalism is likely to be detrimental to the larger interests of the entire Islamic world unless the governments and clergy of those countries speak out strongly against the Taliban. The Taliban has besmirched the name of Islam; all those so-called Jehadi organisations in Pakistan who have links with the Taliban will also come to be associated in public perception with this senseless iconoclasm. It is also a clear warning to the Pakistani leadership and people as to what may happen in their own country if extremist fanatical groups are not vigorously curbed. General Musharraf admits that such fanaticism exists in Pakistan, but contends that it is restricted to a small minority. The danger is that such fanaticism can be infectious, if it is not checked at the very start. It should also be borne in mind that the Taliban was not a native Afghan phenomenon; it was grown and nurtured, and continues to be sustained, in the Deeni madrasas of Pakistan. The stance adopted by Islamabad vis-a-vis the Taliban on this issue will be the litmus test of General Musharraf's self-proclaimed Islamic moderation. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the only countries which recognise the Taliban; the current development casts a special responsibility on them. Without their help and support the Taliban cannot sustain itself for long as Iran, the central Asian republics, and all moderate Islamic nations have shown their disapprobation of the iconoclasts in Kabul. The Taliban is not defending the true faith; it is grievously undermining it.


Updated: 9-3-2001

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