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12 / Conflict and Resistance

Afghan soldiers from the ruling Taliban movement and visiting journalists stand in front of one of the destroyed Buddha statues in the central province of Bamiyan, March 26, 2001.
Afghan soldiers from the ruling Taliban movement and visiting journalists stand in front of one of the destroyed Buddha statues in the central province of Bamiyan, March 26, 2001.
Artist / Origin Sayed Salahuddin (Afghan, b. 1970)
Date 2001
Material Photograph
Credit © Omar Sobhani/Reuters/CORBIS

expert perspective

Tarek KahlaouiAssistant Professor of Islamic Art and Islamic History, Rutgers University

Afghan soldiers from the ruling Taliban movement and visiting journalists stand in front of one of the destroyed Buddha statues in the central province of Bamiyan, March 26, 2001.

» Sayed Salahuddin (Afghan, b. 1970)

expert perspective

Tarek Kahlaoui Tarek Kahlaoui Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Islamic History, Rutgers University

The Prophet Muhammad was never seen as a godly figure. The Muslims decided to emphasis mainly an artistic discourse, a visual discourse that marginalizes images, not because they were against images, but because they were afraid that images may be used in religious conflicts to be venerated. So the act of iconoclasm is an act against the veneration of the image.

We have two traditions and this is related to the concept of conquest in Islam, which is the Arabic word for ‘conquest’ is futūh. We have the conquest by force and we have the conquest by compromise or by peace. If you would like to see and understand how the whole Bamiyan Buddhas’ destruction happened, this is not simply a religious reading towards these Buddhas. This was part of a whole discourse from the Taliban that includes also a rejection of western European domination over Afghanistan. That’s why they invited foreign journalists to cover the whole thing—because they knew that this was something to be viewed, this was an act of empowerment for them, through media. The act of desecration, viewed or viewable for later generations, is something that is an essential part of the act of iconoclasm.” 

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