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Taliban Crushes Statues Despite Pleas of Fellow Muslims
Despite universal outrage and even widespread condemnation from leading Muslim circles, the ruling Taliban faction in Kabul has proceeded with the destruction of non-Islamic statues in Afghanistan.
The repressive Islamic militia Taliban, which rules most of Afghanistan, took a break during the Muslim feast of Al Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), but then continued over the weekend with orders to destroy ancient non-Islamic religious relics scattered throughout the mountainous country. Despite international pleas for their preservation, a Taliban spokesman in the southern town of Kandahar said demolition of the two towering rock carvings of Buddhas - 53 meters (175 feet) and 38 meters high - was nearly complete by Sunday. International aid workers said they had reports from witnesses that the two Bhuddas in the remote Bamiyan valley were completely demolished by yesterday.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan accompanied a delegation of scholars from the 55-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) for talks with Taliban officials on Sunday about salvaging the historic cultural relics, but later admitted it was probably too late to save the giant Bhuddas at Bamiyan. Annan met in Islamabad, Pakistan with Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil and afterwards told a press conference that Muttawakil, "confirmed that all movable statues have been destroyed and the destruction of the two (Bamiyan) statues had begun."
The high-level OIC delegation was led by Qatar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Abdullah Zaid al-Mahmoud, and included Egypt's top cleric, the Mufti Nasr Farid Wassel, and other renowned Muslim figures. But Muttawakil said he made clear to Annan and the group of Islamic scholars that the Taliban would not halt the destruction of what they see as heathen idols. "We do admit all these statues were the cultural heritage of Afghanistan," Muttawakil said. "But we will not leave the part which is contrary to our belief."
The destruction has triggered world-wide alarm, as most countries see the move as an assault on world heritage and countries with Buddhist populations consider the smashing of the statues an act of religious bigotry. And Muslim leaders as well are embarrassed by this latest black mark on the image of Islam.
Jeff Jacoby, columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE, noted in an article on March 8 that nothing in Islam requires the demolition of the Bamiyan statues and that Muslim voices were being heard to say so. "The government of Pakistan, one of the few that recognizes the Taliban regime, has condemned the assault," wrote Jacoby. "The Iranian president, Mohammad Khatamai, describes it as 'inhumane, violent.' UNESCO's Arab contingent calls it 'savage.' The towering Buddhas are 'just a recording of history,' the grand mufti of Egypt says, without 'any negative impact on Muslims.' The president of the Islamic Center of New Delhi points out that the statues are older than Islam itself and labels the Taliban's actions 'barbarian politics.'"
A Muslim man from London insisted in a letter to the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE published last Friday that, "the destruction of artifacts is in no way mentioned in the Koran... The Kabaa [black veiled box], Islam's holiest site in Mecca, predates Islam and was thus evidently built for a non-Islamic purpose. Would the Taliban ordain its demolition?"
The international and Muslim outcry over the Taliban actions continues to stand in sharp contrast to their pronounced silence over the Islamic Waqf's deliberate pattern of destruction of ancient Jewish, Christian and Muslim artifacts on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.