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'Civilized world' more concerned about statues than it is about people

Taliban's destruction of idols

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

The "civilized world" is in an uproar over an order by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban to destroy pre-Islamic statues of Buddha dating as far back as the 7th century.

"Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak."

-- Habakkuk 2:18

"You shall have no other gods before me."

-- Exodus 20:3

Leaders of the world's top industrialized countries, meeting in Trieste, Italy, for an environmental conference, professed shock at the ruling and issued a statement urging the Taliban not to go ahead with their "deeply tragic decision," wire services report.

Even China's state-run Buddhist Association has called for a stop to the destruction of two huge Buddhas, which have been featured in television stories. China, which cared nothing for the human lives destroyed in Tiananmen Square a decade ago, conducts forced abortions and regularly jails or harasses anyone thought to be a threat to the Beijing regime, now wants to use its immoral authority to rescue things made of stone.

What happened to the world's too-brief outcry against what the Taliban is doing to women? Female doctors cannot practice medicine. Female educators cannot teach children. All women must don the burqua, a horrid head-to-toe covering that allows them to barely see through a screen over their faces. If they go out in public, a male relative whose permission must first be sought for even the simplest journey, must accompany them. Why doesn't the world step up the pressure on the Taliban to loosen its grip on women? Instead, it pretends to be noble by attempting to save statues.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad is a judge of the Shari'ah Court of the United Kingdom. In a March 2 press release concerning the Taliban order, he said: "It is prohibited upon Muslims to keep idols at home, to maintain them, to trade with them or to earn anything from them whether they be statues, antiques or heritage. It is also prohibited for Muslims to keep idols in the public arena regardless of what their purpose is and such idols must be destroyed. ..."

The destruction of idols is not new, either in Islam, Judaism or Christianity. Each religion offers chapter and verse to justify ridding a nation of objects of worship other than the God to whom they should be paying attention. The point is not to justify such destruction from a cultural standpoint. The point is that an increasingly secularized Western culture has little understanding of religious beliefs and practices. In America and Europe, where the dollar, celebrity and material things are the focus of worship, any attempt to "purify" a people is regarded as retrograde and anti-culture.

We in the United States worship our own idols, which we refuse to destroy. We worship materialism. We worship self, comfort and convenience. We acquire and we abort and we day care and we divorce and a few of the disturbed shoot up their schools. Eminem, with his lyrics of hate, is the idol who evolved from our worship of these false gods. He screams his wrath at us because of the way he and his generation were treated. He is a rebuke to our false worship and our lifeless idols.

According to the United Nations Web page, there are currently 34 armed or simmering conflicts within or between nations. The government of Sudan, dominated by Arab Muslims, is engaged in a civil war against Black Christians and Animist people living in the Southern part of the country. The international media has almost nothing to say about this persecution, which includes officially sanctioned murder and slavery.

According to the publication "Foreign Policy in Focus," 2 million Sudanese -- nearly 8 percent of the population -- have lost their lives to war or famine since 1983. Millions more have been displaced. The conflict there is Africa's longest-running civil war. But the West is upset only by the destruction of statues, not the destruction of people.

There is a problem here but it's not about objects made of stone. The problem is in our hearts -- hearts that have turned to stone because we worship false gods of our own making.

Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.



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