The recent destruction of pre-Islamic Buddha images by Afghanistan’s Taliban regime suggests that this Muslim movement is reasserting its militancy after a period of tolerance and even cooperation with other nations on issues ranging from historic preservation to women’s rights, reports the Washington Post (March 20).
The widely reported destruction of invaluable Buddhist statues by the Taliban in early March after a religious edict was issued was followed days later by an animal sacrifice (100 slaughtered cows) by authorities. The action, far from repenting of the destruction, was meant to seek Allah’s forgiveness in delaying several days in blasting the statues. Unnamed sources say that following an internal struggle, moderates who tried to establish greater contact with the West during the last year have lost influence to hard-liners.
One source in an Afghan international agency says that the statue destruction was done to “show that they [the Taliban] are the purists, the real face of Islam.”
Although Afghanistan has not showed much change in its restrictions against women’s rights, it had allowed women to work in relief agencies run by foreign charities. But last summer Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s top leader, issued a decree barring Afghan women from working with foreign agencies. just as he reversed his earlier promise not to destroy pre-Islamic shrines.
Although the Taliban claim they destroyed the Buddhas for strictly religious reasons, analysts see the hardening stance of the regime as a reaction against the sanctions Western nations have imposed on Afghanistan because of the Taliban’s alleged links with terrorism.