Saturday, December 29, 2001

Reflecting on the Year 2001 (2)

The incident that moved and had the most profound effect on the entire world this year is definitely the September 11th terrorist attacks that happened in the United States. It's been said that, "The world changed drastically after that day" which means that the way we, the general public, look at things has changed. The reasons--religious, idealogical and political ways of thinking--for this act of terrorism came as a result of years of the history of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Middle East. Not only the United States, but all Western countries, including Japan, are in part to blame. Introspective discussions on how to proceed are being held all over the world. The important thing from a religious standpoint, however, is the question of "fundamentalism" and "religion and politics."

At the Seicho-No-Ie Fall Festival ceremony on November 22nd of this year, I spoke on the former, and it is also recorded in an entry on the website entitled, "Seicho-No-Ie Is Not Fundamentalism." Today, I would like to touch briefly on the latter.

Although I'm not too familiar with Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani journalist who has reported on this country for over 20 years, 90% of the people in Afghanistan are of the moderate Sunni group of Islam. Moreover, they also belong to the "Hanafi Sect" which is considered the most liberal. In this doctrine, it is believed that, in order to implement the Koran and other scriptures in the present, it is more important to draw conclusions through analogies and explanations from what is written there, rather than to respect/honor the "authority." In contrast, those of the "Maliki Sect" suppress their own interpretations and emphasize the details as written in the "scriptures."

The Taliban which controlled Afghanistan got their theological principles from the Wahhabi Deobandism, a strict by-product of Sunni Hanafi Islam. According to this journalist, "They fitted nowhere in the Islamic spectrum of ideas and movements that had emerged in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1994" and its interpretation of Islam, the Holy Wars, and social reform was heresy in Afghanistan." For this "heresy" to gain control of the government, there were many serious problems with society, one of which was the fighting and the intervention by foreign forces. This can be surmised by the fact that Osama Bin Ladin himself is from Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban is made up of many Arabs, Pakistanis and other foreigners. But we need to emphasize the fact that in Islamic teachings, the Taliban are "heretics"" Their policies of banning "frivolities" like television and video, and the way they deny modern-day law enforcement and strictly enforce public stoning and amputation, and forbid women to show their face and body in public is not the true Islamic society. It is the cruel result of what happens when a small heretical group of believers gain control of government policies. The traditional and historical Islam of Afghanistan has always hoped to decrease government intervention and want a "small government", but, when the country is in danger, a "large government" is established through force and strength, with a movement to "foreign" elements, influences and control of the smallest detail of people's lives--similar to what the Japanese people have experienced in the past as well.

In Islamic society, the unification of religion and government has been a given, but, when we consider the background and history of this incident, we find that this does not always bear the best results.

References:Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

- MT

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