[FOUNTAIN]Students of tyrannyIn the spring of 1994, 10 mujahedeen, Islamic warriers with guns in their hands, appeared in the village of Sanghesar, in southern Afghanistan. They were wild and in high spirits. These men played an important role in kicking out the Russians after 10 years of guerilla warfare. After the mujahedeen took over the village, they kidnapped two girls and raped them.
When Mullah Omar, a Muslim school teacher from nearby Kandahar, heard the news, he rushed to the village with 30 colleagues and students, weapons in hand. After a fierce fight, they saved the girls and made the mujahedeen pay for the crime by hanging them on the spot.
News of the incident spread throughout Afghanistan and captured the hearts of the people, who were sick of the tyranny of the mujahedeen. These heroes were called the “Taliban,” which means “Muslim students of the Koran,” and became symbols of justice. It was the start of the Taliban myth.
After the incident, Omar moved to Pakistan, fearing revenge. As the Taliban’s reputation grew, many young people volunteered to become followers. After Omar strengthened his power, he returned to Kandahar and took power, taking over mujahedeen headquarters one by one. In 1996, the Taliban had taken over almost the entire country.
The Taliban were a product of history. In 1980, a large number of people became refugees when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. However, the refugees did not neglect their childrens’ education, even during the hard days in camps. They built an Islamic school, called a madrassa, to teach the boys, who later become the base of the Taliban.
The problem is that madrassas only teach how to memorize the Koranic verses and nothing else. The school insists that truth lies in the Koran ― why learn anything else? Come to think of it, the refugees might have had nothing else to rely on except Allah in their painful refugee days.
For this reason, the Taliban government was not able to rule realistically after taking power. They disregarded people’s rights and banned all sorts of entertainment, such as music, movies and sports. They persecuted women. They applied what they learned in the madrassas unconditionally. This went on until the Taliban government was crushed by the United States in 2001.
Rahmatullah Hashemi, the former spokesman for the Taliban, will become a Yale University undergraduate student this spring. He says he wants to be a bridge connecting the West and Islam. Let’s hope he studies many things besides the Koran so he can also be a bridge that connects the ideal with reality.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.