WASHINGTON, March 4 (IslamOnline) - Over 70 top ranking Muslim scholars and intellectuals issued a statement denouncing the Taliban's destruction of ancient statues Sunday.
The statement read: "It is unfortunate to learn that Afghanistan's Taliban Government has decided to demolish statues of historical and religious importance in the country. Historical monuments are the heritage of all mankind and do not belong to any government or area or people. Demolition of places of worship and statues of religious personalities is totally un-Islamic and unwarranted. Islam orders us to respect the places of worship of other religions. Islam does not allow the destruction of religious places of any community. If the news emanating from Afghanistan is correct, we condemn this act and ask the Taliban government to desist from any such step which goes against the spirit of Islam."
Among those who signed the statement include, Fatehpuri Jama Masjid Shahi imam Mufti Mukarram Ahmad, Islamic Center president Maulana Waheeduddin Khan, Hamdard University vice-chancellor Syed Hamid, former Indian MP Syed Shahbuddin, Bharati Majlis chairman Javed Habib, Asghar Ali Engineer, Jamia Millia professors Farida Khanum, Zubair Ahmad Farooqi and Shafiq Ahmad Khan Nadwi, London-based Muslim Institute director M Ghayasuddin, Jerusalem-based journalist Khalid Amayreh, Jawaid Quddus of the University of Michigan, Zafar Iqbal from Washington, Parwaiz Wahid of Northeastern University in the U.S., Athens-based journalist Nawab Khan, C.M. Naim of the University of Chicago, Professor Zeenat Kausar and Institute of Islamic and Arab Studies director Zafarul Islam Khan.
Support from the Taliban's actions has also come forward.
Mufti-e-Azam (Grand Mufti) of Pakistan, Rafi Usmani questioned the criticism of Taliban over the destruction Buddha statues in Afghanistan, in an interview with the online e-journal Albalagh.
He said that the Qur'an gives us the examples of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who destroyed 360 idols installed in the precincts of the Ka'ba.
Rafi, however, clarified that there can be disagreement among scholars regarding the priorities and methods employed in such an action, saying, "There are many evils in the society …And scholars may disagree over which ones need the most attention at a given time."
Commenting on world leaders' criticism on the issue, he said, "The people who nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who killed hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, and are killing people in Afghanistan through the recently imposed sanctions, how strange that they should be raising their voice in support of stone statues?"
Sheikh Youssif al-Qaradawi, a popular Muslim cleric based in Qatar, in a statement distributed Friday made similar points, however, he said the burden of caring for the people of Afghanistan falls upon the Taliban.
The "Taliban should focus on fighting poverty, diseases, unemployment and bloodshed on its soil and not on destroying relics, which are a living lesson of history," he said.
Qaradawi added that, "The U.N. and Western countries should also show similar anger over Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians and towards famines and wars across the world."
Rafi dismissed allegations that the Taliban are a collection of ignorant people. "I know them personally. They themselves are not ignorant in Sharia'h. They also have scholars among them and their decisions are based on the guidance from their respected scholars," he said.
Former Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy chief General Hamid Gul, considered to be close to the Taliban, and who has much influence on Pakistan's Afghan policy, told the Times of India that it was hypocritical for the world to condemn the statue desecration when it "silently stood by as 10 million Afghan lives have been placed at risk."
He said that the Taliban's decision to destroy the statues is closely related to recently imposed U.N. sanctions against Afghanistan, adding that, "This is their way of forcing the world to pay attention, to take them seriously."
Although Gul said that the Taliban should allow the statues to be sent somewhere else, he said that there is nothing un-Islamic in their action.
He, however, added that since the Bamiyan Buddha's were not currently being worshipped, the Qur'anic injunctions against desecration of places of worship do not apply, and added, "It's their country. Nobody can do anything."