Compiled by JULIE BLOOM
Published: September 8, 2008
Archaeologists have unearthed a 62-foot Buddha statue along with other relics in central Afghanistan, Reuters reported. The discovery was made in the central province of Bamiyan, near the ruins of giant statues that were destroyed by the Taliban seven years ago. The statue of the Buddha in a sleeping position dates to the third century. “In total, 89 relics such as coins, ceramics and a 19 meters statue have been unearthed,” Mohammad Zia Afshar, an adviser in the information and culture ministry, told Reuters. He also said the statue was badly damaged. The other relics date back to the Bactrian era and from Islamic and Buddhist civilizations. Bamiyan was once a thriving center of Buddhism.
Source: The New York Times
HIMALAYAN RESEARCH AND CULTURAL FOUNDATION
(NGO in Consultative Status –Category II with ECOSOC,
57th SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
GENEVA, 19 March – 27 April 2001
Agenda Item 11E: Religious Intolerance
Statement by: Sultan Shahin
Thank You Mr. Chairman,
We are discussing the issue of religious intolerance today in the backdrop of perhaps its worst and most repulsive manifestation in recent times. The 2,000-year old statues of Lord Buddha, colossal images carved into the Hindukush Mountains at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, and hundreds of other precious artefacts that symbolised that country’s glorious heritage, are lost to the world forever. These had survived the depredations of the vandals of the past. But in this day and age when we think we have become more civilised, this precious human heritage has been destroyed by the Taliban. The world watched helplessly in horror. All international appeals to the Taliban asking them to desist from their declared goal of destroying mankind’s collective legacy failed.
What makes this deed even more pernicious is that it was done in the name of religion and by people who claim to be religious; indeed, they claimed they were performing their religious duty. This brings into disrepute not only Islam, the religion they claim to espouse, but the concept of religion itself and hence constitutes an affront to all religious peoples of the world. Even the outrage felt and expressed by the one and a half billion followers of Islam, in whose name this barbarism was being perpetrated, could do nothing and they had to watch helplessly the name of their religion being besmirched by the Jihadis in Afghanistan. They could not even persuade any of the three UN-member countries that recognise this government to derecognise it.
The Taliban are the products of thousands of madrasas (religious seminaries) run in various parts of Pakistan. An American scholar, Jessica Stern quotes Pakistani officials to have estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of these seminaries teach Jihadism in which the Islamic concept of Jihad is equated with guerrilla warfare. (Foreign Affairs, volume 79, No. 6). These Jihadis are being produced in large numbers in what have been called by academics as Jihad factories running in Pakistan from where the Taliban too have emerged. Similar Jihadi forces belonging to dreaded terrorist organisations like Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammadi have indulged not only in killing innocent Muslims opposed to their pernicious ideology in large numbers in the Kashmir valley but also in ethnic cleansing of religious minorities like Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir.
It is gratifying, Mr. Chairman, that Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur in his report (E/CN.4/2000/65 dated 15 February 2000, Paragraph 110, page 29), has acknowledged “the danger represented by the extremism of groups claiming allegiance to Islam,” and “believes it is important to distinguish between such extremists using Islam for political purposes, who are in fact in a minority, and the majority of Muslims practicing Islam in accordance with the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination.”
The latest assault on civilisation has brought before a shell-shocked humanity the dangers posed by religious intolerance and the world’s inability to deal with even its most obnoxious and most open manifestation. This poses several questions. Can a small group of people, whether running a government or not, be allowed to bring into disrepute the name of religion, not just one religion, Islam in this case, but the concept of religion itself. All religions exhort people to develop a culture of peace. Religions have played a major role in the advancement of civilisation. But virtually every religion has to suffer a fringe group of people that can be described as remnants of the barbarian age. Can we the people of the world, believers in religion as a step towards civilised living, allow these groups to hold civilisation to ransom?
It is gratifying that the Special Rapporteur considers it important to have inter-religious dialogue. In his report (E/CN.4/2000/65 dated 15 February 2000, paragraph 179), he says: “Inter-religious dialogue appears essential for the prevention of misunderstandings, conflicts and violations in the area of freedom of religion and belief.” As was rightly recalled by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her message of 21 September 1999 on the occasion of the 950th anniversary of the city of Nuremberg and its conference on Peace and Human Rights: “The full title of the conference - ‘Peace and Human Rights - Furthered by Religions, Threatened by Religions’ - reflects the fact that religions’ message of peace and love can be distorted to become an instrument of hate and conflict … Religions can and should play a significant role in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconciliation.”
I would, however, like to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that intra-religious dialogue be also given similar importance in resolving the conflict. If anything could have proved effective, particularly if there was more time to save the Buddha statues, it was this intra-religious dialogue, as seen in the encouraging response of Mullah Omar of Afghanistan to the efforts of Egyptian clerics to moderate his views. With the sectarian violence within religious communities rampant in several parts of the world, particularly in some South Asian countries, it is imperative that intra-religious dialogue be encouraged in the same way as inter-religious dialogue has been emphasised by the Special Rapporteur.
Several speakers in the Commission have complained of an attempt to encourage Islamophobia in the world. But if we Muslims are ourselves not able to stop religious extremists from spreading pernicious philosophies like Jihadism and allow Jihadists like Osama bin Laden and his cohorts in various countries to continue with impunity to motivate Muslims to consider Jihadism as an essential feature of Islam, how can we ask others not to fear Islam as an instrument of terror and consider it an instrument of peace as it indeed should be. Prophet Mohammad had come to the world as Rahmatul-lil-Aalemin, a blessing for the worlds. It is primarily our duty as Muslims, particularly that of Islamic scholars around the world, to see that Islam continues to play the role of a blessing for humankind that it is meant to be and does not degenerate into an instrument of terror in the hands of people with a mindset of the Jahiliya, the pre-Islamic medievalism.
Thank You, Mr. Chairman