Militants killing laughter and music in Pakistan region
It’s hard to write about the Taliban on a religion blog without giving the impression that this militant movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan is basically religious. It’s certainly Islamist, i.e. it uses Islam for political ends. But it’s hard to find much religion in what they’re doing, while there’s a lot of power politics, Pashtun nationalism and insurrection against the Kabul and Islamabad governments there.
(Photo: Pakistani pro-Taliban militants in Swat Valley, 2 Nov 2007/Sherin Zada Kanju)
It’s often difficult to separate religion and politics in groups like this, but President Barack Obama gave a basic rule of thumb in his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington last week:
“Far too often, we have seen faith wielded as a tool to divide us from one another – as an excuse for prejudice and intolerance. Wars have been waged. Innocents have been slaughtered. For centuries, entire religions have been persecuted, all in the name of perceived righteousness…
“No matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.”
Zeeshan Haider, senior correspondent in our Islamabad bureau, clearly makes these distinctions in his feature “Militants killing laughter and music in Pakistan region” about the intimidation of musicians and comedians in Peshawar. The blame lies not with “Muslim militants” or “medieval Islam” — broad terms often heard when the Taliban first emerged as a force in nearby Afghanistan in the 1990s — but “Islamist vigilantes hell-bent on imposing Taliban-style values.”
(Photo: Polish geologist Piotr Stanczak before his beheading by militants demanding the release of Taliban prisoners, 9 Feb 2009/Reuters TV)
Haider also makes a distinction between the Islamist political parties in Pakistan, who banned music on public buses and movie posters featuring women, and the militants who went further and used murder and bombings to intimidate the population.