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The Taliban Strikes Again

Our March 12 story on the Taliban's plan to destroy ancient Buddhist statues prompted many readers to deplore what one called "a dastardly act." Another remarked, "The Taliban is laying waste to its nation's art and history." Some, however, asserted that the indignant response of some Western nations was hypocritical. "The whole world has suffered from the destruction of natural and cultural riches by industrialized nations," commented one critical reader.

Doing Away With History

You're right, NEWSWEEK, the Taliban has "succeeded only in angering the world" by going on a rampage against Buddhist idols ("Destroying the Afghan Past," SOCIETY & THE ARTS, March 12). But the world has had to reckon with many such Philistines through the ages. Nearly a decade back, the Babri Mosque in Ajodhya, India, was completely demolished by members of the party that is in power today. And yet now the Indian government has come out strongly against what happened in Bamiyan. It is difficult to digest such hypocritical self-righteousness on their part.

Ratna Sansar Shrestha--Katmandu, Nepal

The destruction of Buddhist temples and statues is nothing new in the history of Islam in West and South Asia. The reason there are virtually no ancient Hindu or Buddhist temples anywhere in northern India is that they were razed by marauding Muslim conquerors nearly a millennium ago. Visitors to Delhi's Quwwat ul-Islam mosque (India's oldest) can discover that it is constructed of stones from demolished Hindu temples, the images nearly obliterated but still visible. The Katmandu Valley in Nepal, by contrast, is so rich in ancient Hindu and Buddhist shrines and manuscripts precisely because it was largely spared the ravages of Muslim invasion and iconoclasm. Some Muslim communities, on the other hand, have preserved the sacred art of other faiths with respect and loving care. I was delighted to come across one of the most extraordinary collections of Buddhist statuary I've ever seen in the municipal museum of Peshawar in Pakistan, 50 miles from the Afghan frontier.

Bill Templer--Shumen University

Shumen, Bulgaria

I did not believe that such barbarians still existed in this age of high-tech globalization until I read your article about the Taliban. That the entire world, including Muslim countries, is against this mad rampage shows that what the fanatical rulers of Taliban are doing is not only harming Buddhism but destroying world heritage. We in Sri Lanka--Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims alike--condemn this dastardly act by the Taliban with one voice because every religious man must respect another's faith.

Lionel Rajapakse--Kandy, Sri Lanka

Although I do not approve of the Taliban's destruction of Buddhist statues, I find the outrage over it arrogant and hypocritical, especially when expressed by Europeans and Americans. After all, the whole world has suffered and continues to suffer from the destruction of natural and cultural riches by the industrialized nations. Our forefathers blindly sacked and eradicated the Mayan and Inca civilizations, enslaved Africans, humiliated Native Americans and imposed their religion, language and political systems on the peoples of the Southern Hemisphere. And it is the North American and European multinationals that, by way of their ever-growing financial power, continue to dictate economic and cultural choices and wreak ecological havoc on the rest of the world. Western colonialists are the real destroyers of cultural identity. I do not support the Taliban's policies, especially with regard to women, but shame for the cultural crimes committed by my country and continent prevents me from joining the outrage over their demolition of idols.

Georges Pfeiffenschneider-- Luxembourg

The cultural vandalism of the Taliban just goes to show how the cancer of religious fundamentalism has taken hold, has debilitated the Afghan population and is spreading by laying waste to the nation's art and history. …