i've been following the story about the Taliban in the news the last few days, and it really bothers me. i'm not exactly a big fan of the Taliban in the first place, what with the insularity and the burqua and all. but to each their own, for the most part. and i think it's a huge blow to women's rights from my Western point of view. but i've also read commentary from women within the Muslim and Islamic world who value their separate sphere. beyond my understanding, but their perogative.
this, tho... the idea that false idols must be destroyed... people, they are blowing up these massive statues of the Buddha that were carved into the side of a mountain, statues that hold great historical and spiritual significance for many people. they are smashing all of the relics in the state museum. the anthropologist in me is cringing in horror. the UN has tried to intervene; the Metropolitan Museum offered to remove the artifacts, even to pay for them; even Pakistan, usually an ally, has pleaded with the Taliban not to take this action.
and all of those words fall on deaf ears. the Taliban is bent on pursuing their mission. i would insert some joke about how they feel the need to get all biblical on Buddha's ass... but it just isn't funny.
i can certainly see their point that any image could become an idol. we do it every day. i know some people who are so in love with their cars that it borders on worship. but when the Taliban outlawed photos because they too could become idols? if i understand correctly, even family photos were destroyed. and that seems outrageous to me. my family photos are some of my most prized posessions; they give me a glimpse, however small, of my family, a connection to where i've come from. to me, those photos are a window into my personal community.
where do you draw the line? at what point do the Taliban's beliefs cross the line from personal credo to harm to the greater community? at some point on either end of the spectrum it's clear, but that slippery slope in the middle... and when someone decides that a group has reached slippery slope territory, what should be done? how do you protect the rights of both sides? no answers here, just a bit of what i've been thinking about recently.
this resonates most strongly for me in the area of the spirituality being organized right out of most religions by the institutions that grow out of them. color me cynical (or heathen), but it seems to me that organized religions are to some degree the poster children for the bromide 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely.' can you say Inquisition, boys and girls? or Crusades? where in any of those actions are the tenets of humility and tolerance? every religion that i've encountered has some variation of loving one's fellow humans as a cornerstone. and that ideal just crumbles in the face of perceived threats, threats in the form of people who think or believe differently.
and the clash of politics and religion has never been quiet. look at the Hmong, a tribal community permanently displaced by global politics (in which, to my shame, the US played a large role). or the Dalai Lama, a phenomenally wonderful person and leader of a people displaced because of their beliefs. there are any number of other examples; i'm sure you can think of a few others off the top of your head.
all of this makes me very, very nervous. how much further will the Taliban go, and what will our response be? and will we wish we had acted earlier? check back with me in twenty years and let me know how it all turned out.
on a related note that no doubt would infuriate the Taliban, i've discovered a great read recently. Killing the Buddha caught my eye because of the title, and kept my attention with thought provoking articles. also, the 'bikers for god' photo. *g* it's an ezine for ...well, for people like me, i suppose, who are drawn towards spirituality but deeply uncomfortable with public displays of organized religion. and in the politics section is a series of essays on the Shrub's recent idea that faith-based initiatives should be allowed to compete for federal dollars. the idea rubs me the wrong way, in part because any words that come out of the Shrub's mouth make the hairs on my neck stand on end, but also because it just seems wrong. fortunately, the talented writers who contributed to the topic are far more articulate than i am on this. well worth exploring.