Anti-Western messages grow among Afghanistan’s imams
Enayatullah Balegh is a professor at Kabul University and preaches on Fridays in the largest mosque in central Kabul, where he advocates jihad, or holy war, against foreigners who desecrate Islam. After a fundamentalist U.S. pastor presided over the burning of a copy of the Koran last month, there has been a growing perception among ordinary people that many of the foreigners in Afghanistan belong in just one category: the infidels.
“The international community and the American government is responsible for this gravest insult to Muslims,” Balegh told Reuters in the blue-and-white tiled Hazrat Ali mosque. “I tell my students to wage jihad against all foreigners who desecrate our religious values. We have had enough.”
Protests in Kabul against the Koran-burning have not become violent but there are many other mullahs in the overcrowded capital whose sermons are filled with criticism of the foreigners fighting and working in Afghanistan.
In Kabul’s northwest, firebrand Habibullah Asaam warns his congregation that all contact with non-Muslims is dangerous. “The Jews and crusaders can never be friends of Muslims, they are the despoilers of our society and culture,” he said during Friday sermons. Worshippers cried “Allahu Akbar” — God is greatest — in response.
“Those who want them here are cowardly Muslims. Women avoid wearing veils, men chase fashion and show off, it’s all because of the foreigners,” he said.
With few Dari or Pashto-speaking foreigners in the country, the messages broadcast from mosques by loudspeakers often pass unnoticed by the people they are condemning. But the extent and impact of anti-Western sentiment was brought into stark relief last week when a protest in normally peaceful Mazar-i-Sharif city in the north ended with the frenzied killing of seven foreign U.N. workers.