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EDITORIAL: 1-15 April 2001

Taleban, Sangh and the Qur’an

The Taleban administration in Afghanistan has finally destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues. They did this in defiance of the world opinion. Muslims and non-Muslims from all over the world, and rightly so, condemned this act of destroying part of the common human heritage. Some Muslims supported the Taliban drive on the plea that they were destroying ‘idols’ which are not permitted in Islam and that Taliban are free, legally, to do whatever they want in their country. This argument is basically flawed because Islam prohibits Muslims from worshipping idols while it permits non-Muslims to keep and worship their idols. This is the law and this has been the practice of Muslim states all these fifteen centuries. Afghanistan itself was conquered in early Islam and no one since touched these statues, for two reasons: Muslims were not worshipping them and there was no fear whatsoever that Muslims would ever do that, and, two, non-Muslims had full right under Islam to keep their idols and worship them.

The second argument was that Taliban are free, legally, to do in their country whatever they deem fit. If they did this to an office block or some residential areas no one would have bothered to speak up against it. What is involved here is not an ordinary block, rather at stake is part of the world heritage and history, just like the Pyramids and Taj Mahal and Qutb Minar. There will be similar outcry all over the world if some day a lunatic administration in Indian decides to pull down Taj Mahal or Qutb Minar or any other ancient monument. In earlier times people did not value these things but now there is great appreciation of these remains of a bygone era. These priceless structures are a source of inspiration for scholars, historians and the common man alike. To erase such a landmark is to erase part of the world history which Muslims are ordered by Allah to go and see (3:137, 29:20).

This justified outrage was seized by people in our own country who have already pulled down the historical Babri Masjid, encroached upon hundreds of ancient landmarks, and lay claim to hundreds of ‘Islamic’ monuments and mosques in our country. Such people have no moral right to speak in such matters. Indeed they were very quick to show their real faces when they started burning the Holy Qur’an which is held sacred by over a billion Muslims all over the world. The first incident, known to the whole world through a Reuters photograph, took place on 5 March and the police and our so-called ‘national media’ still refer to the horrible incident as ‘alleged’. This double-standard and mute connivance is responsible for the heights to which extremism has been rising in recent years. Encouraged by this official and media attitude the extremists went on to repeat their criminal act at Amritsar and Patiala. True the Prime Minister has condemned these acts but without a stern action these elements will continue to play havoc with the religious beliefs of the country's largest minority which is the second largest Muslim concentration any where in the world and is bigger than the total population of Pakistan itself.

It is high time the government and the media realized that the Muslims of India are a great asset for this country and can open many a closed door around the world which has over 50 Muslim states. We have at stake a lot of business interests in the vast area extending from Morocco and Mauritania on the shores of the Atlantic to Indonesia at the periphery of the Indian ocean. Activities of extremist groups have antagonized many in the Muslim world and India is now seen as an intolerant country where an ancient mosque is demolished and Qur’an is burnt. The minority which indulges in such acts is a great enemy of the country and it hurts the long-term commercial and political interests of the country. They are damaging our interests not only abroad but risk to push large numbers of Muslims, especially youths, to resort to similar tactics. It is a sign of the the maturity of the Muslim community that such elements have not gained acceptance despite the baseless and foolish ‘ISI’ propaganda a section of the media has relentlessly spread in recent years. It is high time extremist and irresponsible elements are firmly dealt with, not just to spare Muslims from their criminal designs but to save the country’s long-term interests. 
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