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Bull-dozing the buddhas of bamiyan
By Yoginder Sikand

The destruction of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers has been greeted with shock, horror and anger by almost the entire international community. Even Pakistan, one of the only three countries to have recognized the Taliban regime, and its major sponsor, has reacted sharply to the news. Unfazed, the zealously iconoclastic one-eyed Mulla Omar, the self-styled 'Amir' of the 'Islamic Emirate' of Afghanistan, has now gone ahead and announced that all statues and 'false gods' in the country, including priceless artefacts lying in various museums in the country, would meet with a similar fate. This comes at a time when Afghanistan has been racked by a devastating earthquake, a continuing and seemingly never-ending civil war, the collapse of all civic services and almost total isolation from the rest of the world-- that is, at a time when what the Afghans most need is support from the outside world to help build their war-ravaged country which today has the dubious distinction of being one of the poorest in the world. Following the bull-dozing at Bamiyan, whatever little public concern there was for the plight of the hapless people of Afghanistan seems to have vanished with one fell swoop.

Deeds speak louder that words, and despite the Taliban's loud and deafening claims of being ardent champions of Islam, there can be little doubt that their actions have done the greatest disservice to the faith that they claim to profess, only helping to reinforce the stereotypical images that most non-Muslims have about Islam. Islam, at least as I know it, certainly does not allow for the destruction of the places and objects of worship of others. 'There is no compulsion in religion' is a cardinal tenet of the Qur'anic revelation. What the Taliban has done, then, has no Islamic sanction. Rather, it goes against the very tenets of Islam. This is all part of a piece. First we were witness to an orgy of violence in western and central Afghanistan let loose by Taliban hoodlums against the country's Shia minority, in which thousands of Shias lost their precious lives. Then, the banning of women from schools and employment and from the public sphere in general, which resulted in reducing thousands of already starving families into complete destitution. Then, the conversion of the country into the world's largest producer of opium, the consumption of which Islam sternly prohibits, but justified by the wily Mullas.

Then, reports of the Taliban's involvement in the sponsoring and training of various terrorist groups, parading as crusaders for Islam. And now the brutal vandalism at Bamiyan. We have reached a point that demands that all of us, particularly Muslims concerned about the way the fair name of Islam is being sullied in order to pursue an agenda of blind hatred and terror, must raise our voices before the monster swallows us up. 
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