September 26, 2001

September 26, 2001 | WebMemo on Middle East

Who is the Taliban?

Who is the Taliban? David Forte answers.

Heritage Foundation Fellow David Forte is an expert on Islam. He is also a professor at Cleveland State University's College of Law. Below is a recent op-ed he wrote, Radical Islam vs. Islam, with a brief Q&A as introduction.

Q: How you do see this shaping up? Is Islam against the West?

A:
"This will be a war to salvage two civilizations. As I wrote in my column, Islamic radicals' enmity is not just directed against us. They also mean to hijack Islam itself and to destroy 13 centuries of Islamic civilization.

"There is something deeper going on here for both the West and Islam. No one has yet tried to contextualize this act [to say this is the result of the West's support of Israel] and that's a good thing. Bush has said and the media has said this is evil. An act of evil. American has not has that kind of experience in generations.

"This establishes the line that while this is evil, and as flawed as we are - our view of how humans are treated is better. Period."

Q: What's the difference between Islam, and the radical Islam of Osama bin Laden?

A:
"The tradition of Islam is very multifarious. Osama bin laden and the radicals are trying to change the identity of Islam. Islam has many faces and many traditions, and has had from its beginning.

"Bin Laden and other Islamic radicals claim they represent ancient Islam. It is true that they do represent one tradition in Islam, but it is a tradition that Islam early on rejected as opposed to the universal message of its Prophet.

"Bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban are essentially undereducated tribal thugs who have gained power. They have combined an extremely literal view of Islam law with their own tribal mores, a very dangerous mix."

Read Forte's Radical Islam vs. Islam

Coming Soon: A Forte Lecture: Islam and Osama bin Laden: How to Distinguish Friends and Enemies

Resources
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
(BBC)
"Since they came to the attention the world in the mid-1990s, the Taleban have pursued an isolationist and fundamentalist Islamic agenda."

Text of Taleban leader's speech (BBC)
Text of the speech by the Taleban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar from the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency. "America shouldn't be mistaken. My death or the death of Osama (Bin Laden) will not bring America out of this crisis."

The Taleban military machine (BBC)
"Drawing up a military balance between the United States with its colossal firepower and Afghanistan's Taleban with their increasingly ageing stock-pile of weaponry is almost meaningless."

For more information, or to speak with David Forte, contact Joe Dougherty at 202-608-6143.

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