The Reestablishment of Roots

Frédéric Bobin’s article in The Guardian featured the current on-going dispute in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Bamiyan’s wild mountains once had two, beautiful Buddha statues carved into them. The Buddhas presence was threatened in 2001, when the Taliban regime decided to “destroy all the country’s pre-Islamic “icons”. The demolition of the statues left two empty cavities that represent a greater struggle between opposing religious views.

Now Unesco, archaeologists and the people of Bimiyan are dealing with the issue of whether or not reconstruction should commence on the statues. The issue goes beyond re-constructional building. The demolitions of the Buddhas by the Taliban Regime represent a historical battle. Buddhism arrived well before Islam and the statues represented “a unique case of cross-breeding, which flourished in the early years of the first century AD, drawing on Buddhist influences from India and Greek aesthetics left behind by Alexander the Great”.

Bimiyan describes their people as particularly enlightened and not as affected by the violence happening in most of Afghanistan. Therefore the Buddhas were a symbol of their tolerance and the Taliban destroying them was a blow to the peacefulness they advocated for.

Although there is consensus that the Buddhas should be further preserved, there is still hesitation on whether or not they should be completely rebuilt or left the way that they are.

This article illustrates how religious forces can be physically violent and oppressive to places that regard themselves as either against or neutral to their views. The Taliban that enforced their rule over Bimiyan show how in extreme cases, places that are seen as perhaps being weaker, can be pushed into adopting the dominant religion, although there had been a preexisting presence of Buddhism before Islamic invasion. This article does not serve to create a victim or a villain of either religion, but instead speaks of how the rebuilding of the Buddhist figures would allow for locals to “ regain possession of our history and send a message to the whole world in favour of reconciliation between religions”.

A.P.

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