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Revisionism the Taliban Way
March 2, 2001 1:32 AM   Subscribe

Revisionism the Taliban Way Talibans rub off giant Buddhist statues with mortars. The Mullah says it's all written in the Coran, but the Holy book says to respect other religions and the Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of different cultures for centuries, always juxtaposing Islam with Buddhism.
The Taliban want to remove any reminders of the centuries before Islam when Afghanistan was a center of Buddhist learning and pilgrimage.
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posted by pecus (22 comments total)

 
The Taliban are "fearsome fundamentalist zealots." They promote "medieval persecution of women and girls." Their idea of just punishment includes flogging a woman who walks with someone to whom she is not related.

And now this. Countries are begging them to stop and offering to pay to have the statues removed, but the Taliban, who surely could use the money, are not listening. Why? Because the Taliban are evil idiots.

Never mix religion and power. Never.
posted by pracowity at 2:19 AM on March 2, 2001


Just to be "Islamically correct," both Abraham and Mohammed destroyed statues of false gods in their respective home towns. While the Holy Quran tells Muslims to respect other people and their faiths, it also has very strong words for "disbelievers" and "idol worshipers." Islam is the only major faith without a "face" or "symbol" associated with it. (The crescent/star thing is very recent.)

To be "Buddhistically correct" ("Buddhistically" is not a legitimate word), Afghanistan was never a major Buddhist pilgrimage site. The statues of Buddha in Afghanistan were heavily Greek influenced (as opposed to the Indian/Oriental statues being Indian and Oriental influenced - with the faces having Indian and Oriental features).

Does the statues in Afghanistan have any significant value in modern Buddhism? No.
Do they have major archeological and anthropological value? YES

I hope the Afghanistan govt. would look at Jordan and see how the govt there had preserved Petra and other sites of Christian heritage and did not destroy them in the name of "Islam." Pakistan, another "Islamic" country, has also had the habit of preservation of non-Muslim archeological sites. Unicef and other organizations had helped to preserve and restore Hindu and Buddhist sites in a rather poor Islamic country, Bangladesh. Overall, Muslims have had a rich history of preserving things. Muslims helped preserve centuries of scientific and literary works when The Church outlawed any such creative works during the middle ages.

Last semester I wrote a 160+ page theses comparing the similarities between Islam and Buddhism.
posted by tamim at 2:22 AM on March 2, 2001


My own incredibly naive question is why we ket the Taliban do the things it does. Someone once told me it had to do with their control of the opium supplies, but that hardly seems like a justification...
posted by methylsalicylate at 3:53 AM on March 2, 2001


> why we let the Taliban do the things it does

I suppose because everyone saw Russia's troubles in Afghanistan and America's in Vietnam, and because ethically it's one thing to condemn a regime and try to change it through nonviolent pressure, and quite another thing to invade (or bomb) and destroy the regime and anything (or anyone) that might accidentally get between the attacker and the regime.

The opium trade appears to fund certain suspected Taliban-related projects, but I don't see how opium would stop another country from attacking.

But how do you bomb an ideology? If anything other than diplomatic and economic sanctions are used, it will probably be more US cruise missiles to Afghan resident bin Laden, and he is not the Taliban. The US has already attacked a suspected bin Laden base there and would surely do so again if bin Laden were thought to be at home. But sending bin Laden to paradise would still leave the Taliban in place, probably with much more local support.
posted by pracowity at 4:56 AM on March 2, 2001


My own incredibly naive question is why we ket the Taliban do the things it does.

Um, because it's a "legitimate" government? At least, its legitimacy is no less questionable than that in the vast majority of states. The Taliban could probably ask why [insert Western democracy] is allowed to do the things it does.

On the one hand, we tolerate "errant" regimes because it's more important to maintain strategic alliances with them: for instance, most of the Gulf states, China, the odd dictatorship in Africa and South America. On the other hand, we turn a blind eye to states that direct their authoritarian zeal at their own people: Iraq during the 1980s, and now Afghanistan. That's politics for you.
posted by holgate at 5:01 AM on March 2, 2001


I guess 800-pound gorillas just aren't what they used to be...
posted by methylsalicylate at 5:11 AM on March 2, 2001


And these are the kind of statues I was hoping human-kind would save for our children's children. Maybe by then they would have been made part of puttputt courses, but they would still be standing. Is the outrage really because of it's historical significance, or because it was on the cover to a particular National Geographic that had nude woman as a centerfold?
posted by samsara at 6:10 AM on March 2, 2001


methylsalicylate, I assume your last statement was referring to why doesn't the U.S. (or maybe some other organization) do something about the Taliban.

As far as I can tell, with only 4 nations formally recognizing the country, there is little diplomatic pressure that can be levied against the government.

Of course, military intervention is not an option. The U.S.S.R. had its head handed to it when it tried and nobody else is going to want to see a lot of folks coming home in body-bags in order to kick them out. Air strikes would be fairly ineffective since there's not much left standing in Afghanistan to bomb; and the political support that would be generated for islamic extremists by such an action would more than offset any benefits derived.

It seems to me that the best action to take is to let them run the country for a while until the people get tired of their oppression. Then send lots of support to their opposition (which is still holding on by its fingernails) and hope the population rallies. Otherwise, we'll just have to wait for the government to evolve into a more moderate state, similar to the path Iran is on now.
posted by CRS at 6:40 AM on March 2, 2001


Isn't there a prohibition against image making (human images) in Muslim belief? Tehy might have had this in mind rather than a Mayor of New York decision on what is and what is not good art.
posted by Postroad at 9:45 AM on March 2, 2001


I was under the impression that is against Muslib belief to make images of any living thing. But I may misremember.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:13 AM on March 2, 2001


And I may not know how to spell "Muslim."
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:13 AM on March 2, 2001


It seems to me that the best action to take is to let them run the country for a while until the people get tired of their oppression. Then send lots of support to their opposition (which is still holding on by its fingernails) and hope the population rallies.

You mean, like the last 20 years of civil war in Afghanistan, funded by superpower intervention, in which opposition became oppressor with depressing regularity? Um, think again.
posted by holgate at 10:43 AM on March 2, 2001


Yes - Muslims are prohibited to "create" images and statues (of "false gods").
posted by tamim at 11:24 AM on March 2, 2001


My own incredibly naive question is why we ket the Taliban do the things it does.

Afghanistan has a long history of making life painful for meddlesome imperialists. The British invaded and got kicked out several times during their superpower heyday. After forty or so years of what passes for stability there, the Russians came rolling in, got their asses kicked, and pulled out a decade later. That was only twelve years ago, and I doubt the Americans would have any more success now than the Russians did then.

Furthermore, the U.S. is (partly) responsible for the Taliban's success in the first place; the CIA funded and supplied the mujahideen during the 80's as part of their anti-communist subversion efforts.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:59 AM on March 2, 2001


The Taliban threatened to do this in 1997 when they were finally consolidating the coutnry and on the verge of taking the Bamiyan valley, but they held off after UNESCO begging.

It appears that this change of heart is in retaliation for the sanctions that the UN recently began to enforce (in January) against Afghanistan for harbording Osama bin Laden. In other words, we are trying to do something about the situation there, and they're doing this in order to fuck with us in return.

As for military adventures in Afghanistan, remember that that's about where Alexander the Great's advances petered out. And I haven't heard of many invasions in order to protect the civil rights of women. Statues ... let's just say they have considerably fewer civil rights.
posted by dhartung at 12:26 PM on March 2, 2001


Every country has had the pleasure of revising its own history. Its really only fairly recently that we've developed a taste for all things ancient and cultural. And it just so happens that the Taliban is evidently trying to piss people off. What they're doing is horrible, but not more horrible than anything thats been continually done by a lot of cultures for most of history.

There are much bigger issues, like human rights towards women and dissidents, at hand than some petty iconoclasm. (damn I love that word, too bad it has two meanings)
posted by fiery at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2001


As bad as the destruction of these ancient statues of the Buddha might be, it's really not all that different than when they tore down those statues of Lenin and Marx during the fall of communism, or even that famous bit of film where the nazi stone swastika is blown up over that german building.

Isn't it the right of the victor to erase the past of the conquered?

And if you're worried about the archeology, well, heck ... ask any native american indian where the sacred land of their forefathers is.
posted by crunchland at 5:34 PM on March 2, 2001


> it's really not all that different than when they tore
> down those statues of Lenin and Marx during the
> fall of communism

Wrong.

Those statues of Lenin and Marx were mass-produced emblems of the ruling government and are better thought of as replaceable Stop signs (stop thinking whatever you're thinking and become a good communist). They weren't original art, weren't one-off creations of artists. They were mass-produced casts that could be replaced like your souvenir Statue of Liberty could be replaced. Also, many of the statues taken down have been moved to out-of-the-way parks people are welcome to visit, not destroyed and not banned.

> Isn't it the right of the victor to erase the past of
> the conquered?

No. Good governments don't pick through the archives and destroy everything they don't like.
posted by pracowity at 2:07 AM on March 3, 2001


No. Good governments don't pick through the archives and destroy everything they don't like.

True: they just make it impossible to access those archives, unless forced to do so by constitutional or judicial fiat.
posted by holgate at 4:06 AM on March 3, 2001


Good governments don't pick through the archives and destroy everything they don't like.

And haven't we decided the Taliban isn't a good government?
posted by crushed at 4:06 AM on March 3, 2001


> And haven't we decided the Taliban isn't a
> good government?

Certainly. As I said above, the Taliban are evil idiots. I'm answering this:

> Isn't it the right of the victor to erase the past of
> the conquered?

with a 'no.' No, it isn't the right of the victor to erase the past of the conquered. Winners that do that (for example, the Taliban) are not acting properly.
posted by pracowity at 8:41 AM on March 3, 2001


So? The Spaniards who wiped out the Mayans and the Aztecs weren't acting properly. The Europeans who wiped out the American Indians weren't acting properly. The Europeans who wiped out the Australian aborigines weren't acting properly. The Chinese who are wiping out the Tibetans aren't acting properly.

What's your point?
posted by crunchland at 4:17 PM on March 3, 2001


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