SV: Taliban, Darul Uloom Deoband and idols

Lukas Werth lukas.werth at RZ.HU-BERLIN.DE
Wed Apr 4 12:54:40 UTC 2001

At 11:36 04.04.01 +0200, you wrote:
>Rustam Masalewala [SMTP:masalewala at HOTMAIL.COM] skrev 4. april 2001 04:12:
>> We must admire the Taliban for their honesty. They say what they believe,
>> and they practice what they say.
>I am sure your admiration for the Taliban is very commendable, but in case
>you want to dig more deeply into their values and politics, may I suggest
>the following book:
>Ahmed Rashid: Taliban. Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia.
>I. B. Tauris & Co., 2000.
>Lars Martin Fosse
>Dr. art. Lars Martin Fosse
>Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
>0674 Oslo
>Phone: +47 22 32 12 19
>Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45
>Fax 1:  +47 22 32 12 19
>Fax 2:  +47 85 02 12 50 (InFax)
>Email: lmfosse at

I have not read Rashid's book, but I think I have some idea of the argument
suggested in the title. There has long been a hypothesis that the Taliban
were ultimately sponsored by the USA because of an interest to get
Afghanistan pacified, and be eventually able to build an oil pipeline
through Afghanistan from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean.

While there may have been some ideas like this, I cannot believe this is
more than a small part of the story. In particular, I cannot believe that
the USA were so stupid in 1994, a heyday of anti-Islamic sentiments, to
help to set up Deoband madrassas, the one Islamic school in South Asia to
be known to harbour strong anti-Western ideas.

To regard the Taliban as an American mercinary troup (an expression I have
heard) misses out all the internal dynamics of the system. And, while the
movement cetainly was born in Pakistan, this does also not mean that they
are somehow foreign controlled (though their involvement in the hijacking
of an Indian aeroplane a few (2?) years back indicates relations to
military circles in Pakistan, as seems only natural, given their origin).

Without claiming to have any special knowledge about the Taliban and
Afghanistan, I would like to make a few points I have heard/read, and which
seem to make some sense to me: the Taliban are all ethnically Pathan, and
some dynamics of their movement are best explained by this fact. For
instance, leadership should be quite dynamic, and leaders are expected to
demonstrate their capacity to share followers around them, guide, help
them, and give them a feeling of belonging to (identity), or otherwise they
are likely to be superseded by other aspiring leaders. There is likely to
be, in a nutshell, a constant internal competition about leadership.
Second, for the rurally domnated Pathan, urban culture has long been the
abode of the evil/satan, and most restrictions and tyrannies they imposed
in the cities must be seen as an effort to drive the evil out of them.
Naturally, the first point aggravates the second one, because leaders (on
any level, probably) try to show their competence against their competitors
by ever being more enthusiastic in their purging efforts.
Third, the education of the Taliban is precarious: most do not even seem to
have/claim great competence in religious studies, but rather impose their
crude and rural ideas which get distilled through internal competition.

Having said this, let me emphasize that while I find the recent destruction
(and more to come, most likely) sad and regretful, I found the public
reaction somewhat pharisean. Afghanistan has been a clear victim of the
cold war; it suffered from its very worst consequences. Nobody, however,
seemed to bother much of what happened later to this tortured country (very
much in difference to other parts of the world, witness Bosnia). It was
only found convenient to drop a rocket on it when Clinton wanted to
distract the public from his own sexual proclivities. The Taliban are,
Pakistani madrasas notwithstanding, very much the result of the lack of
everything except weapons. Given this state of affairs, we should not be
surprised if they sometimes behave somewhat oddly, and if we want to save
Afghanistan to the world, we should do more than just cry out when they
destroy old statues, regrettable as this may be.

Lukas Werth

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