The Taliban, Persian for, ''the (Koran
) students'' is a fundamentalist sect
- in the sense of a dissenting religious group - of Islam
. It is also considered by many Muslims to be a cult
of Islam, in that the Taliban - while claiming to represent ''true Islam'' - deviate sharply from many of that faith's key tenets. The Taliban preach an extremist interpretation of Islam, known as Islamism
The United Nations does not recognize the Taliban. Until recently, only three nations - Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia - recognized the Taliban and their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks on America - said to have been carried out by people linked to or directed by Osama Bin Ladin
- the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have severed diplomatic ties with Afghanistan. Pakistan severed diplomatic ties several weeks after the U.S. bombardments of Afghanistan began.
In 1996, the ruling government
of Afghanistan was displaced by the Taliban movement -- an Islamic fundamentalist group which claims control over about 90 percent of the country. The Taliban is recognized by only a handful of countries as the sovereign government. It has implemented a strict Islamic code of justice which can involve public executions and floggings. One of the poorest countries in the world, Afghanistan has been mired in conflict for generations. In 1979, the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, but after enduring years of a debilitating war against the Afghan resistance, Moscow withdrew the last of its troops in 1989. Millions of Afghans fled to Pakistan and Iran during the war with the Soviets and many remain outside the country while fighting against the Taliban continues. The Taliban are Sunni
Muslims and mostly Pashtun -- the majority ethnic group of Afghanistan, while the opposition alliance comprises religious and ethnic minorities, including Shiites, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks. The Taliban are fighting the opposition on several fronts to extend their rule over the entire country. The Taliban follow a harsh version of Islam
that bars women from work and education, forces men to wear beards and outlaws all light entertainment, including music and television.
Source: CNN, Feb. 14, 2000 [Article no longer online]
The world first became aware of the Taleban in 1994 when they were appointed by Islamabad to protect a convoy trying to open up a trade route between Pakistan and Central Asia.
Years of conflict have made gun culture the norm in Kabul
The group - comprised of Afghans trained in religious schools in Pakistan along with former Islamic fighters or mujahedin - proved effective bodyguards, driving off other mujahedin groups who attacked and looted the convoy.
They went on to take the nearby city of Kandahar, beginning a remarkable advance which led to their capture of the capital, Kabul, in September 1996.
Ordinary Afghans, weary of the prevailing lawlessness in many parts of the country, were often delighted by Taleban successes in stamping out corruption, restoring peace and allowing commerce to flourish again.
The Taleban said their aim was to set up the world's most pure Islamic state, banning frivolities like television, music and cinema.
Their attempts to eradicate crime have been reinforced by the introduction of Islamic law including public executions and amputations.
A flurry of regulations forbidding girls from going to school and women from working quickly brought them into conflict with the international community.
Such issues, along with restrictions on women's access to health care, have also caused some resentment among ordinary Afghans.
The Taleban now control all but the far north of the country, which is the last stronghold of the ethnic Uzbek commander Ahmed Shah Masood.
Recent years have seen the re-emergence of the hardline Islamic Taliban movement as a fighting force in Afghanistan and a major threat to its government.
They are also threatening to destabilise Pakistan, where they control areas in the north-west and are blamed for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks.
The Taliban's promise - in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan - was to restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power.
In both countries they introduced or supported Islamic punishments - such as public executions of convicted murderers and adulterers and amputations of those found guilty of theft.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied that it is the architect of the Taliban enterprise.
But there is little doubt that many Afghans who initially joined the movement were educated in madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan.
Pakistan was also one of only three countries, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recognised the Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until 2001.
It was also the last country to break diplomatic ties with the Taliban.
But Pakistan has since adopted a harder line against Taliban militants carrying out attacks on its soil.
Essentially, this hypocritical movement is a terrorist organization whose beliefs and practices result in widespread human rights violations using ''religion'' as a cover.
International terrorist Osama Bin Laden
has been living in Afghanistan with the Taliban's tacit approval.
The Taliban gave sanctuary to bin Laden in 1996 mainly they say because of his role in war efforts that led to the withdrawal of Soviet Union forces from Afghanistan after 10-years of occupation.
The Taleban, which in
Persian means ''the Koran students,'' should perhaps study harder and take a closer look at the Koran
. They might discover that some fundamental tenets of Islam have eluded their scrutiny so far. These range from the obligation incumbent on people to feed the poor, to the compassion and mercy that are among the attributes of God and are supposed to inspire the behavior of true believers. The Taleban's score remains unimpressive on all counts.
Some Muslims agree with these policies and publicly support the Taliban. Others violently disagree, advocate shaving the beard in order to demonstrate their disagreement, and are willing to appear on television along with secular human rights and feminist groups in order to denounce these policies. But most Muslims maintain an embarrassed silence, taking refuge behind the excuse that ''we dont really know whats going on there.'' It might be more honest to say that we dont want to know what is happening, much less deal with it.
The Taliban, following their takeover of all but the northern sliver of Afghanistan in 1996, have become rather notorious in the West for the severity of their imposition of religious law, particularly for ejecting women from all workplaces. No girls may be educated, so the Taliban order, until a proper Islamic school system is in place. So whence come the beliefs behind these policies and the people who hold them? Among the several positive attributes of Marsden's survey of recent Afghan history is his tracing of Taliban views to the ascetic Sunni Wahhabi movement in 1700s Arabia. The inheritors of Wahhabiism, the Saudis, supported the Taliban movement, but Marsden explains that it grew fast for reasons internal to Afghanistan--namely, the perceived corruption of the Mujahidin factions that fought the Soviets and the anarchy their infighting visited upon the country. Striving for objectivity, Marsden elucidates what the Taliban have done, the spectrum of opinion within the movement, and its tense relations with international aid agencies.
» Religion News Blog
News about religious cults, sects, alternative religions and related issues.
» Database of archived news items
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database