Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Pakistani taliban in the Swat-area have a new pastime: Throwing rocks and dead birds at one of the last remaining Buddha statues in a village called Barikot.

You surely remember the Islamist' rage and threats against the pope, the Danish cartoons, Egyptian writers, Iranian ex-muslims and - only this week - against a Bangladeshi feminist writer in India and a British teacher in Sudan after her pupils named a teddy bear Muhammad.

So Islamists themselves would never ever insult other religions - right?

Well, wrong.

I recently travelled through Northern Pakistan, where the Pakistani taliban has taken over large parts of the Swat- and Shangla-area's. The latest fashion here is: Stoning the Buddha with rocks, empty packs of cigarettes and, believe it or not, dead birds.

It is all happening close to the village of Barikot, right along the main road between Malakand (Thana) and Swat (Mingora). The statue is about three meters high and carved out of a rock. As you can see on the picture, the Pakistani authorities have placed - a long time ago - an iron fence around the Buddha to protect the rock carving. By the way, most parts of the Buddha have been destroyed by the locals through the years. Because, in this part of Pakistan, have no illusions; even before the arrival of the taliban, the people here (rather fanatical Sunni muslims) consider statues to be blasphemous.

Ever since the taliban has taken over the area (a couple of weeks ago) all worldly things have been banned. No TV, schools closed, music and dvd's banned. Basically, the only thing left to do in the area is throwing stones at a statue of the Buddha, which many local people consider to be Satan.

Until the year 1000 A.D. northern Pakistan, and parts of Afghanistan, were major Buddhist centers. The tirangle Islamabad-Peshawar-Swat is where the Gandhara era flourished. But the arrival of Islam has, more or less, destroyed most of it. Afghan taliban, in 2001, blew up the giant Buddha's of Bamyan. Recently, at least three Buddha statues in the Swat area were blown to pieces by the Pakistani taliban.

People from the Swat valley specially drive to Barikot to stone the Buddha. While I was there, a man in a car (from Kalam, in Swat) and his three children (of course sons; girls and women are not allowed to leave their houses anymore) visited the Buddha. In very much a picknic atmosphere, he explained that local people view the Buddha as un-Islamic and, thus, as a devil, as Satan. Throwing stones at it, he said, was a popular pastime.

I could see around thirty rocks, one dead bird and one empty pack of cigarettes laying in front of the poor Buddha. All of this had been previously thrown at the statue in a ceremony that, very much, resembles the stoning of the devil (stoning of the jamarat) by muslim pilgrims during the Hajj in Mina, close to Mecca.

The man with the three children (see pic), obviously, was a Taliban supporter. "We need the full implementation of the shariah [Islamic law] here," he said. "It is a shame," he continued, "That nobody gets hanged anymore after they commit a crime. Luckily the taliban is correcting that."

Most Pakistanis I spoke to (normal muslims, not loony Islamists stuck in puberty), were appalled by the stoning of the Buddha. "These people are just so primitive," one man told me. Another described them as behenchod - which basically means: Sisterfuckers. My translator asked me for a print of the Buddha picture so he could show it to his father. "Shameful behaviour by these taliban," he added.

Harald Doornbos

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