Letter to Wall Street Journal in response to the article by its feature editor, Tunku Varadarajan.
A man by the name of Tunku Varadarajan has tried, convicted, and lambasted the Taliban for words they did not utter and acts they did not perform.
Taliban's Roving Ambassador Syed Rahmatullah Hashmi spoke at many forums during his recent visit. I was there when he spoke at the University of Southern California. In fact the transcript of his talk is available for all to read at our web site. (The Invisible Afghanistan: The identification is only for the purpose of granting exemption where it is due. Is that bad? Ask the Hindu and Sikh community leader, Inder Singh Majboor, who said they are happy with the ruling. [BBC]
“When the world is destroying our future with economic sanctions, then they have no right to worry about our past. I called my headquarters, I asked them, why are they going to blow the statues, and I talked to the head of the council of scholars of people, who had actually decided this. He told me that UNESCO and an NGO from Sweden, or from one of these Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden, one of these they had actually come with a project of rebuilding the face of these statues, which have worn by rain. The council of people told them to spend that money in saving the lives of these children, instead of spending it to restore these statues. And these guys said, 'No, this money is only for the statues.' And the people were really pissed off. They said that, if you don't care about our children, we are going to blow those statues. If you were in such a situation what would you do? If your children are dying in front of your eyes, and you are under sanctions, and then the same people who have imposed sanctions are coming and building statues here? What would you do?”
This account was in fact confirmed by the careful “rebuttal” from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on March 20, 2001, who called the allegations “inaccurate and self-serving.” He could not say that Hashmi was lying and no such incident had taken place before the decision to destroy the statues. Rather his defense was that although the NGO's had gone there with the obscene idea of renovating statues in the midst of death, as Hashmi said, but some other NGOs were also providing some money to the people!
Now Mr. Varadarajan is informing us that the offers of money for the protection of the statues were made after the Taliban announced they would destroy the un-Islamic idols. I would like to think that he is merely confused about the later offers of money and ignorant of the original NGO project. But his solemn assertions and air of certainty make one wonder whether his confusion was elsewhere; that while his parents sent him to school to become a lawyer, he got confused and instead became a liar.
The identification badges have been compared with the Nazi tagging of Jews by a fierce propaganda machine. It is a minor detail that the Hindus who had left Afghanistan during the civil war came back after the Taliban take over, precisely because of the peace and protection they provided.
After having “destroyed” the character and credibility of the accused, Mr. Varadarajan then proceeds to convict him for a conspiracy to commit genocide. Here again the truth is stranger than fiction. Here is the real story. In Afghanistan, there are laws applicable to Muslims only. The Ministry of Vice and Virtue is responsible for enforcing those laws. As part of the enforcement, they have to catch the violators and bring them to justice. As you can imagine, sometimes non-Muslims, especially Hindus, since they are indistinguishable, get caught unjustly. To avoid that the local Hindus discussed with the Taliban ways of protecting them from such enforcement efforts. That was two years ago. Over this period various proposals were discussed and finally they agreed on the identification badge. The badge would mean that Ministry officials are not to bother the wearer. The identification is only for the purpose of granting exemption where it is due. Is that bad? Ask the Hindu and Sikh community leader in Afghanistan, Inder Singh Majboor, who said they are happy with the ruling. [BBC].
The identification badges have been compared with the Nazi tagging of Jews by a fierce propaganda machine as is done in this article. It is a minor detail that the Hindus who had left Afghanistan during the civil war came back after the Taliban take over, precisely because of the peace and protection they provided. The propaganda machine has been looking very hard for any incident that could be termed as "persecution" and has not been able to find any. If one Hindu had been maltreated by the Taliban that would have been headline news.
So much for the “tyranny” of the Taliban. On the other hand there are some real problem areas in the world today.
Perhaps Mr. Varadarajan knows about a country by the name of Israel where the occupation army requires the Palestinians to carry identification cards that identify their religion for the purpose of persecution. By law non-Jews are second-class citizens in that country.
The identity cards “mark one's nationality as Jewish or Arab and are thus used as a basis to discriminate,” writes an American Jewish student in Tikkun, a progressive Jewish journal. Similarly the Palestinian car license plates are required to be a distinct color so police can shoot them easily.
His humanity forces Mr. Varadarajan to think of ways to “protect” the 500 Hindus who are happily living in Kabul. Perhaps he knows about a country by the name of India that has so far killed 60,000 Kashmiris for the crime of being Muslim and demanding self-determination.
Or is he the Citizen of a World, which chooses to show its "civility" by condemning imaginary crimes by Muslims rather than the real crimes against them.