As Afghanistan begins to recover from the Taliban regime, a major project to restore the giant Buddha statues destroyed last March is underway. The project would be an excellent international gesture to help rebuild Afghanistan’s morale and to visibly show that tolerance and freedom are back in the country that has so long been without them.
Two giant Buddha statues (170 and 114 feet high, respectively) and one smaller statue were destroyed completely in March on the orders of Osama bin Laden. Images of deities are considered a great offense in Islam, and the Buddha statues themselves embodied both that image and not only the representation of a deity but one of a completely other religion.
Most Muslims do not make an issue to destroy such artifacts and certainly many Afghans did not support their destruction, as evidenced by the fact bin Laden had to find al-Qaida members outside of the local areas to perform the deeds.
When their imminent destruction was at hand, several countries offered to buy the statues and transport them out of Afghanistan. Hopefully, those generous offers will return as discussion of their renewal begins. The statues were not only great historical pieces of art that were 15 centuries old, but they also represent a unity, a tolerance for other cultures that was squelched under the Taliban’s regime.
The restoration of the statues would not only help to restore the artifacts lost but will also serve to document the liberation of Afghanistan and a hopeful era of goodwill and collaboration with the West. Such a collaboration is needed to show that the United States, and the West in general, is not fulfilling its own interests but is truly trying to improve the lot of the Afghans.
Hopefully, the rest of the world will help fund the re-creation of the statues – from individual to United Nations-sponsored donations.