15 October 2005

Kandahar, 1986: City of Music and Rubble

It's a bizarre twist that the Taliban movement, with its horrific repressiveness and abhorrence of music and mysticism, should have come out of Kandahar, where ritual worship at shrines is widespread. That region is home to the [Sufi] Pirs, clerics who trace their lineage to Islam's prophet and have mystical qualities that are revered, their feet and hands kissed.

The severe interpretation of Islam that the Taliban eventually embraced with such vigor came from the outsiders who would take it over, the Afghans trained at Pakistani madrassas, and later by the austere philosophy of Wahabi Islam practiced by Saudi Arabia and the Arab militants who would later wield such control.

Kandahar was not a city of severe Islam in 1986. Kandaharis were not anti-Western ideologues, but in fact just the opposite. The mujahedeen, who arranged my clandestine visit to Kandahar city, were Pashtun tribesmen, kinsmen of Mullah Omar. They drove throughout the region on motorcycles.

In their homes in bomb-shattered villages were old dust-clogged tape recorders that blared Pashtu songs. The most popular singer was a Pashtu chanteuse named Nagma, who sang of love lost, new love.
SOURCE: I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, by Kathy Gannon (PublicAffairs, 2005), p. 33

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