Archive for February 2007

The City of God

February 5, 2007

…The aim of the Taliban assault on Kabul was to turn it into a city of God. All signs of Westernization, such as “British and American hairstyle” had to be erased. Women were banned from work and hidden from public view. The religious police decreed that “women going outside with fashionable, ornamental, tight and charming clothes to show themselves… will be cursed by the Islamic sharia and should never expect to go to heaven”. Music was banned, and so was television, kite flying, chess, and soccer. Adultery would be punished by stoning, and drinking alcohol by whipping. The only was sharia, or religious law. And Kabul would be govern by a six men shura, not one of whom was from
Kabul. Not one of them had ever lived in the city before.

            Such cases of extreme revolt by rural people against the modern city are, in fact quite rare. Most revolutions, religious, political, or combination of both, are born in the cities, as the brainchildren of disaffected city dwellers. Nikola Koljevic, to mention but one typical case, was a Shakespeare scholar from Sarajevo. He spent time on London and the United States. His English was fluent. He was citizen of the most cosmopolitan place in the Balkans, a secular city of Bosnians, Serbs, Jews, and Croats, a city famous for its libraries, universities, and cafes, a city of learning and trade. Yet there he was, in the mid-1990s, watching his city burn from the surrounding hills. The order to shell Sarajevo, in the name of Ethnic purity and the “resurrection of Serbdom,” had been signed by Nikola Koljevic, Shakespeare Scholar.

Occidentalism: A Short History of Anti-Westernism
by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit p.45