Not long ago, Afghanistan's Taleban rulers destroyed two giant Buddha statues that for centuries had towered over the central Afghan town of Bamiyan. The Taleban said the statues were an insult to Islam. The Taleban rulers of Afghanistan pronounced them un-Islamic and ordered their destruction.
Bamiyan resident Afghani Mirza Hussein is a Muslim, yet he calls the destruction of the Buddhas a barbaric act. He says Arab and Pakistani engineers and the Taleban were happy and dancing as they placed the explosives under the Buddhas. But he felt that part of his heritage had been destroyed.
He is not the only person in Bamiyan who feels this way. Before the Taleban came, 47-year-old Sayid Mohammad Hussein was a teacher of the Muslim holy book, the Koran. He says the Buddhas were not against Islam.
"People here were not worshipping the Buddha statues. They were just part of the historical site," he said. He says the Taleban destroyed the Buddhas because they do not respect anyone's religion.
Over the centuries, visitors, including Buddhist worshippers and archeologists, came to Bamiyan to see the Buddhas and the many shrines and paintings. But then came the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, followed by civil war, and the takeover by the Taleban. Tourism became almost impossible.
The Buddha carvings were made during the time of the Kushan dynasty, when Bamiyan was a prosperous center along the Silk Route. It was a stopping point for caravans carrying goods between Europe and Asia. Buddhism blossomed in the region at that time and the Hezara people who now live there were Buddhists until their conversion to Islam in later centuries. Buddhist monks once lived in the caves surrounding the statues. Now those caves are filled with refugees, displaced by war, drought, and poverty.
Source: Local People Regret Taleban Destroyed Buddha Statues
Voice of America, Public Domain