by Enver Masud
WASHINGTON, DC--The Taliban's destruction of the statues of Buddha
at Bamiyan, Afgahnistan, was un-Islamic, and provoked near-universal
condemnation. One voice, however, has not been heard--that of Buddha
What would Buddha say having witnessed 13 centuries of Muslim rule
in Afghanistan during which centuries of cultural heritage survived? Yet
in just 21 years, since the Russian invasion of 1979, "thousands of
Hellenistic, Iranian and Indian artifacts from Afghanistan's
many-layered past have been smuggled out to the voracious and amoral
Western art market."--Robert Hughes, "Buddha Bashing," TIME, March 19,
What would Buddha say having witnessed a decade of Soviet
occupation, the expulsion, by the courageous Afghans, of the mighty
Soviet superpower--which led to its demise, and the fall of the Berlin
Wall at the cost of 1.5 million Afghans killed, another million
maimed, six million who migrated because of Russian brutalities (out
of a total population of 18 million), and many thousands who continue
to be maimed or killed by the land mines left behind by the Soviets?
What would Buddha say to the U.S. that not only turned its back on
the Afghans following these sacrifices, but helps prolong a civil war
by not recognizing the Taliban which has brought a large measure of
stability to the 90 percent of Afghanistan which it controls, and is
reported to have wiped out virtually all opium production--roughly 75
percent of the world's supply?
What would Buddha say to the U.S. which demonizes the Taliban
because it seeks control of Caspian oil, enemies to justify defense
spending--the U.S. share of the world's military spending at about 35
percent is now substantially higher than during the Cold War, and
nearly three times that of all its potential adversaries combined--and
to deter others from building an oil pipeline through Afghanistan?
What would Buddha say to the U.S. which in the mid-1990s embargoed
arms to the Bosnian Muslims, and a world that stood by and watched the
genocide of the Bosnians, and the destruction of over 1400 mosques and
priceless treasures from Bosnia's National Museum, by Christian
Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats?
What would Buddha say to NATO, which on its 50th anniversary,
desperate for a new mission following the break up of the Soviet
Union, and to protect its credibility, under the guise of saving
Kosovo's Muslims, bombed military and civilian targets in Yugoslavia?
What would Buddha say to the Chinese, Russians and Indians who
fear the Taliban's alleged support for oppressed Muslims in the Chinese
province of Xinjiang, the former Soviet republic of Chechnya, and in
the disputed state of Kashmir?
What would Buddha say to the world's powers for their determination
to protect the statues at Bamiyan, while they do little to prevent the
destruction of Palestinian homes, and the killing and wounding of
thousands of Palestinians, armed only with stones, and a few rifles
and automatic weapons, against the most powerful state, and nuclear
power, in the Middle East--Israel?
What would Buddha say to a "world [which] seems to care more about
the destruction of two stone statues, which--let's be honest--hardly
anyone had ever heard of until ten days ago, than about 100,000
refugees who have been starving and freezing to death near Herat a few
hundred miles away from them?"--"The Afghan Iconoclasts," The
Economist, March 10, 2001.
Born in 563 B.C. in India, Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha, was
deeply moved by the suffering of his people, and at age 29 gave up his
kingdom and a life of luxury to seek enlightenment. When asked, "Are
you a saint? Are you an angel? Are you a god? What are you?" answered,
"I am awake." His answer became his title, for this is what Buddha
Buddha might ask the world, "Are you awake?" To the Taliban he
might say, "I have failed to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan
people. Forgive me."
[For a legal opinion read "Afghani
Demolition of Ancient Religious Symbols."]
[Journalists estimate that "two million Afghans, mostly civilians in rural
areas, were killed by the Soviets during the decade the Soviets occupied the
country. Approximately 750,000 other civilians lost limbs to land mines. Nearly
a million rural homes, including eleven thousand villages, were leveled, along
with a similar number of mosques, and about three thousand primary schools. Over
one hundred and seventy thousand horses, fifteen million sheep and goats, and
nearly two million cattle were killed."--U.S. Rep. Paul Fundley, Silent No More.]