Driven to destruction

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2001, 12:00am

It is hardly surprising that Afghanistan's ruling Taleban regime is immune to the condemnation of the international community. Since its rise to power in the country, which began in earnest after militia members seized Kabul in 1996, Taleban leaders have appeared to delight in attracting opprobrium; their control of the country has produced a litany of edicts that to most civilised observers can only be described as, at best, anachronistic, and, at worst, barbaric.

The Taleban's expressed aim is to establish the world's purest Islamic state, without cinema, television, music or other modern - and therefore immoral - diversions.

Some decrees - like the one that insists that all Afghan men grow beards - are, to people living in more secular societies, simply ludicrous. Other regulations, such as those forbidding girls from schools and banning all women from working, would be anathema in most parts of the world; as such they have been attacked frequently and fervently from many quarters.

Such condemnation from the international community, accompanied as it has been by sanctions, appears to have done nothing but drive the Taleban militia to ever more extremest actions.

The latest wave of international protests is more vociferous than ever - and as a result the Taleban has taken up an even more recalcitrant position.

The destruction of some of the world's oldest and most treasured Buddhist masterpieces is nothing short of an international crime. More than this, as India has said, it is a 'regression into medieval barbarism'.

The Taleban's wanton vandalism should be the concern of all people, whether religions or not, in all countries.

Even to fellow Muslims the rationale behind the order from Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar for the total annihilation of Afghanistan's Buddhist statues in order to bring an end to idolatry, is completely misconceived - such depictions of the Buddha are not worshipped by Buddhists, so there is no idolatry involved.

This kind of reasoning, however, even from one of the Taleban's closest allies, Pakistan, would hold no sway. It is now almost certain that the destruction will be completed, and irreplaceable sculptures of great beauty and cultural value will be lost. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from this appalling episode is that isolating and ostracising such a regime as the Taleban - however repugnant many of its actions may be - only drives it into believing it has nothing to gain from listening to what the rest of the world thinks.