Thursday, December 20, 2007

Radio Mullah vs Gandhara Buddha

Caroline Watson, Asia Times (Hong Kong)

The Swat Valley was famed for its peace, serenity and beauty. But, today, its public image is dominated by another imposing figure. With a taste for the theatric and an eye on his own supremacy, Maulana Fazlullah is holding Swat in an ever-increasing grip ... A beacon of Gandhara heritage, the Buddha of Jehanabad is the only remaining Buddha of its size and quality carved into the rock in the area. Standing at 23 feet, the 7th-century statue is considered the most important carving of its kind. It is unique, the most complete and priceless remains of Gandhara. Recently, the Buddha of Jehanabad come into conflict with another famous personality of the region: the cleric-turned-militant who has led the campaign in the Swat Valley, Maulana Fazlullah - the "Radio Mullah". The Buddha of Jehanabad lost. The statue suffered two attacks by militants led by Maulana Fazlullah. The second attack succeeded in seriously defacing it after explosives were detonated on the Buddha's face. Quiet outrage has been expressed by a few. Others have grown numb to such acts, for they have happened before: this was a copycat attack, mimicking the destruction in 2001 of Afghanistan's Bamyian Buddhas.

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