THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF BUDDHA TRAGEDY AND THE CHALLENGES OF CULTURAL TERRORISM
Five years ago on March, 2001, Taliban in the name of Islam demolished the twin giant Buddha statues in Bamyan of Afghanistan.
In the end of February 2001 when Taleban were busy to demolish the Buddha statues, hundreds archaeologists, scholars, Islamic and non-Islamic priests and politicians around the world asked Taleban stop demolishing statues, because: firstly, these priceless and unique statues belong not only to Afghanistan’s cultural heritage but also to all mankind; secondly, they inspire million Buddhist believers around the world and the destruction will affront other beliefs.
First of all, the Buddhist counties like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Japan, Thailand, India and others reacted so angrily and condemned the Taleban’s act of vandalism.
Islamic Republic of Iran also condemned the demolishing of Buddha statues by Taleban in the name of Islam. Iran news wrote: ’’Islam has never preached the destruction of objects that embody the belief and history of millions of people throughout the world’’.
Reuel Marc Gerecht published an interesting article on The New York Times and compared Taleban’s narrow mind with era of ignorance in pre Islamic Arabia. "For Muslim fundamentalists, like the Taleban of Afghanistan, the jahiliyya didn't end in the seventh century. They see modern times as a constant affront to the purist principles that God ordained. The tolerance of traditional Islam, which in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent even its peace with polytheists and idol worshipers, is as a foreign to them as the secular principles of western civilisation."(1)
Koichiro Matsuura, Director- General of UNESCO, said:" they are destroying statues that the entire world considers to be masterpieces. And this being done in the name of an interpretation of the Muslim faith that is not recognised anywhere else in the world. Words fail me to describe my feelings as I see the reports of the irreversible damage that is being done to Afghanistan's exceptional cultural heritage"(2)
"…All cultural sites, but especially these, belong not just to a nation or its government, but to all humankind, said" Tina Rosenberg. (3)
The destruction of the giant Buddhas was" as if the Indian Government to deice to demolish the Tajmahal" said fransec Vendrell, a United Nations envoy to Afghanistan. He also said " I hope the Taleban reconsider and realise that they would pay a very high price for the destruction of the Bamyan statues.’’(4)
Francisco Vendrell flew to Kabul with protest notes from Mr Annan to meet Malawi Muttawakil the Taleban foreign minister at that time, but he was given short shrift. The abandoned relics are not our pride first of all Muttawakill told to Vendrell. ’’ Our soldiers are working very hard to demolish their remaining parts. They will come down soon. We are using every thing at our disposal to destroy them. There is no question of stopping." He also said: ‘‘elsewhere, in Afghanistan thousands of other artefacts were being smashed’’. (5)
The senior officials of the Taleban militia government ignored international outrage and proudly announced that their troops were progressing well with the demolition work. The head and the legs of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan have been destroyed", said Qudratullah Jamal, the Taleban Information and Cultural Minister"(6).
“For the Buddhas of Bamiyan the end has begun they have stood
above the rugged valleys and turquoise lakes of central Afghanistan since the
heyday of the Silk Route more than 1500 years ago. By the Middle of this week
the two huge statues will be gone- victim of dogma, desperation and 20 years of
war" said Mr.Burke.(7)
The Dawn Pakistani newspaper wrote: "It would appear that the Taleban are cutting at their own roots". The Dawn also writes that Peshawar is a major market of Afghan stolen artefacts’’ (8)
In addition, there were a lot of museums that suggested buying Buddhas statues but Taleban refused. Joe Cribb of the British Museum said:” Until modern scholarship began to investigate these sculptures, we knew a little about the history of Afghanistan…we won't know the answers to many questions if the destruction of the statues goes ahead." Experts welcomed the Metropolitan Museum of Art's offer to rescue portable artefacts, but said the loss of the giant ancient Bamyan Buddhas, which cannot be moved, would be the greatest tragedy.’’ (9)
India was one of those countries that asked Taleban to hand over the relics for preservation. Jaswan Singh former Indian foreign minister said:’’ If the Taleban authorities did not wish to retain their inheritance, India would be happy to arrange for the transfer of all these arte facts to India where they would be kept safely and preserved for mankind’’ (10)
Mr.Lundars who was the Greek ambassador in Pakistan asked Taleban to” use common sense. (11)
Despite the fierce criticism, angers and condemnations across the world from UNESCO and UN to Islamic and non Islamic countries, Taleban didn’t use common sense because they brain washed in Pakistanis religious medressas. They neither respected the million Buddhists’ beliefs nor minded about the historical heritages of Afghanistan and humankind. so that they arrogantly destroyed 1700 years old Buddhas statues in the name of Islam in less than couple of weeks.
Ahmad Rashid Pakistanis journalist wrote in The Daily Telegraph, on Saturday March 3, 2001 that Taleban's tanks and artillery fire on Buddhas. He also said that the appeal to spare the Afghan relics were made by America, France,Germany, Thailand, Japan,Srilanka, Iran, Nepal, Vietnam, Pakistan, Russia, India, Malaysia, The European Union, The United Nation Secretary- General Kofi Annan and many Museums and Buddhist groups couldn't change the decision of Taliban.
As we witnessed, the world expressed their angers and hatreds
by massive meetings, demonstrations and in several months until September
Anger at the West is one motive for the vandalism in Afghanistan, says Neal Ascherson (12)
Indeed, Taleban after the destruction of buddhas in Bamiyan, showed their actual faces as a No.1 enemies of civilisation in worldwide.
Elena Finn believes that the destruction of Buddhas was a tragedy and crime against humankind. (13)
’’ Afghanistan is a vanished civilisations; however, the latest conquerors of the country, the Taleban, threatened to erase all those that have gone before them…The destruction of the giant statues of Buddha poses a threat to our global heritage, but I see in it a much greater threat’’.
Although Taliban were known as a religious movement and they destroyed statues in the name of Islam, actually they used Islam as an instrument to achieve non Islamic goals. But the principle question is that if Islamic vision of Taliban was the main cause of demolishing Buddha statues, why Taliban and their international terrorist allies didn’t destroy Pakistanis statues?
In my opinion, Taliban were created by Pakistanis and their
allies for implementing particular missions and the demolishing historical
heritage of Afghanistan was on of their job.
I believe that the following three factors played main role in destruction of Buddha statues in Bamyan and other artefacts rather than Islam:
1 Pakistani factor - Pakistan played a major provocative role in destruction of Buddhas. Because Islamabad, first of all wanted to root out the cultural prides of Afghanistan, affront afghan people and show Afghan nation as barbaric and uncivilised in eyes of the world; secondly, the Pakistan’s agenda was to incite the tension between Muslims and none Muslims, particularly in India in order to gain some benefits in the Kashmir disputes. For example, when Taleban finished the demolishing of Buddhas in Bamyan, Pakistanis encouraged the Taleban to slaughter 100 cows in the name of Islam in order to spark tensions between Hindus and Singh with Muslins .( Because beef is ban in Hindus and Singh’s religions.)(14)
2. Poor tribal culture-most of Taleban were born and brought up in Pashtoons’ tribal culture, where warlordism, violence, illiteracy, poverty, culture vengeance were as usual style of life. Most of the contemporary and ancient cultures and civilisations were unknown for them. Even they didn’t know very much about Islamic civilisation and Koran’s teachings. So, that for them Buddha statues or other historical artefact was meaningless. For example, Mr Mullah Omar their spiritual leader in response to the outrage of the international community said:’ we just have broken a few stones nothing else. Why do world cry for breaking of a few valueless stones?
3. The role of Arabic extremism- Arabic extremism and their hatred against western politics, religion and culture, especially the influence of Mr Bin Laden over mind of Mr Omar enforced his destructive decisions.
Therefore, Islam was as an excuse and coverage for Taleban’s backward tribal culture.
New Afghanistan and new challenges
On the height of world’s angers how to behave next with the increasing dangers of Taliban and their Terrorist allies in Afghanistan and beyond, The Times of India on 7th March, 2001, ironically asked this question:" Tell me, who will destroy the Taleban idols, the ones they call Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden?"
Indeed, the "idols" of Mr Omar and Mr. Laden was obliterated 6 month later after the 9/11 tragic events in USA when Washington decided to topple Taleban and their terrorist allies harbouring in Afghanistan. Since then nearly every thing has changed not only in Afghanistan but also around the world.
Indeed, new Afghanistan and the new political system were born; new constitution was approved, 2 elections such as presidential and parliamentary were held, hundred refugees return to their home, thousand children boys and girls going to schools and millions women have got the rights to work outside the houses, reconstruction of economy is going forward, freedom of speech is promoting and finally the exported democracy of Mr bush slowly takes root in some extend in war torn and tribal society of Afghanistan.
But ironically in the meantime, one thing fundamentally hasn’t been changed: Despite the fact that thousand USA and NATO forces are hunting terrorists in the region, the ‘ghosts’ of two fugitive idols such as Mr Omar and Mr Laden still are in motion between Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas and victimising tenths innocent people including foreign soldiers and blazing schools, especially girl schools.
It is seems that Islamabad is still following their old agendas and playing Taleban card to destabilise Afghanistan. Therefore security is still a burning issue in Afghanistan. But the real paradox is that Pakistan apparently allied with USA against international terrorists and getting millions of dollars for its support but at the same time Pakistan trains terrorists including Alqaeda organisation in their land. The latest visit of President G.W Bush from Islamabad and the controversial discussions about fighting against terrorism showed that the Pakistanis intrigues are likely not working any more and Washington fed up with Islamabad’s double game.
The Lessons of Buddha Tragedy
Since the collapse of Taleban ruling in Afghanistan in 2001, the reconstruction of Buddhas in Bamyan has become a subject of debate in Afghan society and abroad. Meanwhile, the new government of Afghanistan, some Buddhist countries and UNESCO were involved how to compensate the great lost of Buddha statues in Bamyan. In order to recover in some extend, some people suggest that by today’s sophisticated technology it is possible to construct similar Buddha statues in Bamyan. But some others including myself believe that no new constructed statues can compensate the loss of those priceless and unique Giant statues. Because the values of those statues first of all are in their historical arts and skills that had been constructed by primitive instruments and years strives of people in 1700 year ago. In addition, they were not only symbols of inspirations for million Buddhists but they were also the memories of previous splendid civilisations in this part of the world.
History gives unbiased testimony that Buddhas of Bamyan never harmed or humiliated other religions and cultures including the Taliban extremist Islamic beliefs. They always stood humbling, innocuous and silently watched in their birth valley other brutalities including Taliban’s barbarism. The only sin of Buddhas was that they were live witnesses of Taliban’s ethnic cleansing and cultural terrorism in Bamyan and beyond. Therefore, Taleban after five years their barbaric ruling in Afghanistan decided to get rid of these live witnesses in order to cover their crimes.
Finally Taliban murdered these innocent witnesses, but they couldn’t veil their crimes from the Eyes of the world. Although five years passed since that horrible crime took place, world hasn’t forgotten it yet and the future generations will not also forget it. Unfortunately, neither Taleban nor their political and spiritual supporters brought to justice yet.
Finally, at the fifth anniversary of Buddha tragedy, I would like to suggest the following three things to UNESCO, Buddhist and non Buddhist countries, the Afghan government and the whole people who believe not in cultural supremacy, but adherent of ‘’Dialog of Civilizations’’ between different cultures :
1. An international anti cultural terrorism day – might be it is a good idea if UNESCO announces the third of March an official international anti cultural terrorism day when Buddhas were demolished in Bamyan by Taliban. It is necessary that at anniversaries of Buddha destruction not only the pillage of Afghanistan’s national museum and artefacts should be condemned but also other cultural tragedies including the looting of rich Iraqis museum in front of the eyes of the occupier forces.
2. Trials in Buddha’s demolished house- Mullah Omar and Bin Laden as Murderers and cultural terrorists should be brought to justice and punished as they deserve.
If in a sunny and fateful day Washington and Islamabad stop playing double games with terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and they really decide to capture fugitives such as Mr Mullah Omar and Mr Bin Laden, I think it will be better to convict them in home of obliterated Buddhas of Bamyan, instead of sending them in Guantanamo jail.
Although no punishment can compensate the great lost of Buddhas in Bamyan, it at least might alleviate Million humiliated Buddhist believers around the world. In addition, it might decrease cultural terrorism in the future.
3. The Idols of the blind Satan- Might be instead of spending million dollars to reconstruct new Buddha statues in Bamyan, it is better to construct the Idols of the blind Satan like one eyed Mullah Omar in Buddhas demolished home not for aspirations but for expressing hatred by million tourists visiting every year from Buddhas homeland in Bamyan of Afghanistan.
Dr. HAROON AMIRZADA
(1) The New York Times, 3/08/01
(2) The Times (UK), March 3, 2001
(4) The Times (UK), March 3, 2001
(5) The Daily Telegraph, 03/03/01
(6) The Observer, 04/03/01
(7) The Observer, 04/03/01
(8) Asia times Online March 7, 2001
(9) The Times (UK), March 3, 2001
(10) The Times (UK), March 3, 2001
(11) The Times (UK), March 3, 2001
(12) The Observer 4, March, 2001
(13) Radio voice of America, 16, March, 2001
(14) The Times, March 16, 2001