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‘All we are breaking are stones’: Afghan
|The leader of the Taleban Islamic
militia in Afghanistan on 27 February shrugged off international
condemnation of his order to destroy ancient Buddhist statues, saying
"all we are breaking are stones." Mulla Muhammad Omar told the
Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that he had issued his order to
destroy all statues in Afghanistan, including those from the country's
rich pre-Islamic history, in line with "Islamic" beliefs.
"According to Islam, I don't worry about anything. My job is the
implementation of Islamic order," he said from the fundamentalist
militia's stronghold in southern Kandahar.
"The breaking of statues is an Islamic order and I have given this
decision in the light of a fatwa of the ulema (clerics) and the supreme
court of Afghanistan. Islamic law is the only law acceptable to me."
The order, announced late Monday on the official Taleban radio, was met
with shock from Tokyo to Paris, where UNESCO demanded the Taleban
"halt the destruction of (Afghanistan's) cultural heritage."
The Taleban's Radio Shariat said the ministry of information and culture
and the religious police would carry out the destruction. Only Allah, the
Almighty, deserves to be worshipped, not anyone or anything else,"
Mulla Omar's decree said.
Afghanistan, a Buddhist centre before Islamic conquerors invaded around
1,400 years ago, is famous for its two massive and ancient Buddha statues
in the central province of Bamiyan, dating back to the second century.
They are believed to be among the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
Museums around the country host smaller but equally important Buddhist
figures and other priceless statues. In Tokyo, Hokkaido University's
professor emeritus of Buddhism Kotatsu Fujita said: "I cannot believe
the Taleban will destroy the big Buddhas."
"Even though the statues are in Afghanistan, they are really world
heritage sites now. I strongly doubt the Taleban's understandings of
cultural heritage." All Japan Buddhist association secretary general
Kijo Nishimura said the destruction "must be avoided as much as
possible under any circumstances."
"Once you destroy something, you can never get it back. We have an
important responsibility to leave these statues to our descendants ...
," he said. Omar said Afghan history was secondary to the history of
Islam. "Whoever thinks this is harmful to the history of Afganistan
then I tell them they must first see the history if Islam," Omar told
the Pakistan-based AIP.
"Some people believe in these statues and pray to them ... If people
say these are not our beliefs but only part of the history of Afghanistan,
then all we are breaking are stones."
In deeply Buddhist Thailand, Foreign Ministry spokesman Pradap
Pibulsonggram said the loss of the Bamiyan Buddhas would be a "loss
"It is their loss. I hope they could rethink their decision. It's a
loss to humanity," Pradap said. "It's the loss of Afghanistan to
destroy these (Buddhas). One day when they resolve their problems, they'll
want to attract tourism. This would help them."
The decree was issued as a team of western diplomats visited the Afghan
capital, Kabul, to check reports that Taleban hardliners had vandalized
ancient statues in the national museum.
The Pakistan-based envoys from Greece, Italy and France left Tuesday
morning, saying only they were "very sad."
The Taleban, or movement of religious students, seized Kabul in 1996 and
have imposed a puritanical mix of Pashtun tribal and Sharia law in a bid
to create their idea of a true Muslim state.
Their regime is recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United
Arab Emirates, and is not represented at the United Nations nor the
Organization of the Islamic Conference. q