Taliban targets cherished shrines on both sides of Pak-Afghan border

By Sulaiman


In this undated photo, the remains of the Shams-ul-Arifeen shrine can be seen on the outskirts of the Afghan city of Ghazni. The Taliban destroyed it April 18. [Ghazni governor's press office]

KABUL -- The Taliban's disrespect of cultural heritage is not just limited to Pakistan, but also is prevalent in Afghanistan, where the group recently destroyed one of the most important historic and cultural sites in the area.

"The Taliban demolished a shrine that is a few hundred years old with explosives on May 1," said Mohammad Arif Noori, an official spokesman in the Afghan province of Ghazni.

It is the fourth shrine in Ghazni that the Taliban have demolished in the past year, said Noori.

"This shrine was called Shams-ul-Arifeen and stood on the outskirts of Ghazni city ... visitors from around the country came daily," he said.

"This shrine was considered one of the historic and cultural sites in Ghazni Province, but the Taliban fighters destroyed it with explosives."

"Shams-ul-Arifeen, who died in 601 Ah (1204 CE), was one of the great scholars of mysticism and Sufism and was highly respected in society," he said.

The Taliban are destroying the heritage that represents Afghanistan's civilisation and culture at the order of regional foreign intelligence agencies, said Arash Shahirpor, a political analyst in Kabul.

"Shrines have a special place in Islamic and Afghan culture and our faith," he said.

"Regional countries are Afghanistan's enemies ... and they don't like that our country preserves its cultural and historic heritage," he said. "The Taliban take their orders from regional intelligence agencies to destroy our cultural heritage and historic artefacts."

In just the latest example of what the Taliban regularly carries out in Pakistan, a Taliban suicide bomber on May 8 struck the 11th century Data Darbar shrine in Lahore, one of the largest Sufi shrines in South Asia.

'Disrespect' for Islamic culture

No Sharia-based ruling permits the destruction of Muslim shrines and graves, and religious scholars consider such vandalism an un-Islamic act, according to the scholars.

"The Taliban have misinterpreted Islam," Mohammad Salem Hasani, a religious scholar and university lecturer in Kabul, told Salaam Times.

"They think that shrines and artefacts are un-Islamic, but this perception by the Taliban is completely mistaken," he said. "Shrines, holy sites and artefacts are not un-Islamic as they represent our country's culture, civilisation and ancient history."

"Destroying Muslim shrines and graves, and sites of worship and of cultural heritage, is ... forbidden in Islam," said Hasani.

The acts by the Taliban are further evidence of the militant group's hostility toward Islam, said Farhad Hashemi, a civil society activist in Kabul.

"Famous Afghan and Muslim figures are buried in shrines," he told Salaam Times.

"All shrines -- and especially those in Ghazni Province -- are part of Islamic culture and civilisation," he said. "The Taliban are the enemies not only of Islamic culture and civilisation but also of the cultural and historic heritage of Afghanistan."

"Shrines are sacred sites for Muslims," said Farid Jamie, 23, a resident of Kabul and a student in the department of Sharia studies at Kabul University. "Our people have a special respect for shrines, and they consider visiting and preserving these sites their human and Islamic responsibilities."

"But the Taliban, who claim to be Muslims, blow up shrines and mosques," Jamie told Salaam Times.

"This is an unforgivable crime they commit," he said, adding that it demonstrates "the worst disrespect for the religious sites and Islamic culture".

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