When the Taliban destroyed two Buddhist statues in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001, there was an international outcry. But similar incidents are now occurring in northwest Pakistan, where radical Islamists recently blew up a sculpture of Buddha in broad daylight.
The phenomenon is new and disconcerting. Even the Pakistani government describes it as "Talibanization:" Parts of the country are now in almost exactly the same situation as neighboring Afghanistan was when the Taliban were still in power there.
This is especially the case in the formerly peaceful Swat region, where a militant Islamist leader has even proclaimed an "emirate." And just as in Afghanistan, the Islamists' hatred is directed, in part, against the traces left by the ancient Buddhist civilization in the region.
Monday, November 12, 2007