But what you may not know is that he lead the cry that the Buddhas of Bamiyan were an affront to Islam, and he was the driver to dynamite them.
Some people were offended at the massive outcry over the Buddhas destruction and efforts to save them, saying that such high-profile outrage should be directed at how women were being treated in the country. But I think those critics missed that everyone crying over the Buddhas was ALSO crying over everything else in Afghanistan -- it wasn't an either/or situation. And it was through the attention on the Buddhas that many people, at least in the USA, found out what was happening to *people* in Afghanistan.
As I mentioned in an earlier blawg, I talked to a woman from Herat (I guess it goes without saying that she's Muslim) who told me she and her whole family wept as they watched the Buddhas dynamited live on TV. They knew that their country was going down a road it could never come back from, losing treasures cherished by humanity that could never be replaced. I didn't bring it up -- she did. She wanted to make a point of it, to a Westerner: we know what we lost that day. It was more than just two big statues.
Had those Buddhas not been dynamited... it makes me shiver to think about it. That's the tourist anchor this country *desperately* needed once the Taliban was gone from most of the country. And the symbol this country needed, rather than a man with a gun and a black turban, or a woman in a burkka. The draw to see them would have been irresistible for thousands and thousands. Lesser sites and villages would have benefited. Afghans would have focused on their history as a crossroads for cultures and religion, per all of the international attention. And the Afghanis would have been beside themselves at the investment it would have brought. I'm not saying it would have totally saved the country... but for sure, the destruction of those Buddhas set the country back 100 years, as far as its progress and prosperity. 100 years. I'm not kidding.
Some tourists still go to Bamiyan, to enjoy the beautiful landscape and look at the empty spaces that once held the world's largest Buddha statues. I hope to go myself, in late July or early August. There are efforts to see if the legend of the sleeping Buddha are true -- a hidden, reclining Buddha in the sands of Bamiyan-- but there's not much hope that such will turn out to be true. Versus what it could have been, the tourism of Bamiyan is a trickle. A shadow.
I don't think the weeping over the Buddhas has ended.
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