Taliban Forces Save the Lives of Two Sikhs

I figured I would start off this week with an odd news story odd, but deserved of some spotlight. Over the weekend it seems that Taliban-aligned groups saved two Pakistani Sikhs from their kidnappers and are threatening to execute the kidnappers to stifle law-and-order problems in the area.

Two Sikhs, who were abducted from a district in Pakistan’s restive North- West Frontier Province (NWFP), have been rescued by the local Taliban and religious scholars, who decided to publicly hang their nine kidnappers on Monday to discourage crimes in the region. Attar Singh and Sehra Singh were kidnapped by a group of criminals from Dowaba in Hangu district. They were freed on Saturday after the intervention of local Taliban, religious scholars and tribal elders, The News reported. [link]

The news may seem shocking. The Taliban, the same forces that destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhists cave-carved figures, are now saving Sikhs?

While by no means should this post be construed that I am somehow supporting the Taliban, I do believe that this small anecdote helps illustrate the complexities of Afghanistan and beg for us to engage in critical analysis, rather than merely parroting reports in the news media.

Even prior to September 11, 2001, excellent articles featured how Sikhs were surviving under then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN: It’s not just the variety of fabrics in his shop that distinguishes Gurmouk Singh from the other merchants in this bustling city of commerce. Most of all, it is Mr. Singh’s distinctive beard and turban that mark him as a Sikh, a religious minority in an aggressively Muslim land.

But while the Taliban regime that controls some 95 percent of this war-torn country has in the past few months smashed Buddhist statues and cracked down on Shiite Muslims in central Afghanistan, Singh says he and his fellow Sikhs feel completely safe in the only home they have ever known.

For their part, Muslims regard Sikhs to be Ahl-e-zima, protected minorities, and Ahl-e-kitab, people of the book, a class that includes Judaism and Christianity as well. Like orthodox Muslims, for instance, Sikhs regard all human beings to be of one brotherhood, equal, regardless of social status. In addition, while Sikhs often hang portraits of the 10 founders of the Sikh religion in their temples, they condemn the worship of idols.

“The Taliban don’t really approve of the Sikhs, in the sense that no religion measures up in the eyes of Islam. But they’re a little more benign, more tolerant toward the Sikhs,” says Khushwant Singh, a Sikh historian and novelist in New Delhi who has traveled throughout Afghanistan. “They must be a resilient lot, and they must be performing a useful function.” A mischievous grin crosses his face. “I suppose the Taliban’s women couldn’t get their chadors [veils] if the Sikhs weren’t there to sell them.” [link]

While the reasons for the Taliban-aligned groups to save the Sikhs may have more to do with the fluidity of local politics as opposed to large ideological reasons, it does also highlight the lack of law-and-order and fiasco that is developing in Afghanistan.

The media (if it does pay attention) is Iraq-specific, in fact, this past weekend the precarious situation in Afghanistan was highlighted with Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly surviving an assassination attempt on his life in the streets of the capital Kabul during a victory parade.

In a land that has been devastated by war, the American-led victory rings hollow for much of the country. Reports have shown that the number of attacks have actually increased in 2008 as opposed to the same period in 2007. Even former Secretary of State, Colin Powell talks of a “Taliban resurgence” in Southern Afghanistan. We are far from the final throes in Afghanistan or Iraq. With an American election on the horizon and increasing failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and false belligerency about Iran and even supposed North Korean-assisted nuclear reactors in Syria, I hope that despite the distractions the tabloid media seeks to create [here, here, and even here] that voters keep the issues of American Empire in mind and avoid candidates that have nothing to offer but more of the same and that being fine with them.


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29 Responses to “Taliban Forces Save the Lives of Two Sikhs”

  1. Bobby says:

    I have spoken to Afghan Sikhs in London who escaped as refugees from the Taliban and some of the stories they told me of life for a non Muslim under their reign were frightening. On the basis of that, I don't see anything much wrong with the media's depiction of them.

  2. Bobby says:

    I have spoken to Afghan Sikhs in London who escaped as refugees from the Taliban and some of the stories they told me of life for a non Muslim under their reign were frightening. On the basis of that, I don’t see anything much wrong with the media’s depiction of them.

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    Bobby, it seems even life for Muslims under their reign was also frightening. However, with the breakdown of law and order, this has caused its own version of fright. And for some in Afghanistan, the frightening resurgence of the Taliban is less frightening then the current state. This is the frightening failure of US strategy.

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Bobby, it seems even life for Muslims under their reign was also frightening. However, with the breakdown of law and order, this has caused its own version of fright. And for some in Afghanistan, the frightening resurgence of the Taliban is less frightening then the current state. This is the frightening failure of US strategy.

  5. baingandabhartha says:

    I will bet that the 'council of elders' had a much larger role than the taliban.

  6. baingandabhartha says:

    I will bet that the ‘council of elders’ had a much larger role than the taliban.

  7. kprincess says:

    Why were the kidnapped? Just wondering.

    As to the situation in Afghanistan, it only went from bad to worse.

  8. kprincess says:

    Why were the kidnapped? Just wondering.

    As to the situation in Afghanistan, it only went from bad to worse.

  9. Suki says:

    Sikh's had to wear yellow tags under the Taliban rule.

  10. kprincess says:

    umm, it just makes me feel iffy for the Sikhs to be selling fabrics for the women to cover their faces, when in Sikhi the women are not supposed to cover their face. Kind of bothers me. I mean, I'm sure their using fabrics for other purposes as well, but it's almost like supporting the oppression of women.

  11. Suki says:

    Sikh’s had to wear yellow tags under the Taliban rule.

  12. kprincess says:

    umm, it just makes me feel iffy for the Sikhs to be selling fabrics for the women to cover their faces, when in Sikhi the women are not supposed to cover their face. Kind of bothers me. I mean, I’m sure their using fabrics for other purposes as well, but it’s almost like supporting the oppression of women.

  13. [quote comment="1901"]Sikh's had to wear yellow tags under the Taliban rule.[/quote]

    Along with Hindus, with whom they share a temple and pray together. [link]

  14. Bobby says:

    Bobby, it seems even life for Muslims under their reign was also frightening. However, with the breakdown of law and order, this has caused its own version of fright.

    Doesn't excuse white washing the tyranny of the taliban. Despite instability and the Soviet invasion Sikhs (and Hindus) lived in peace and were integrated until the Taliban came along and decided to target them.

    Along with Hindus, with whom they share a temple and pray together.

    They lived together, protected each other, and worshipped together. When I spoke to a couple of Afghan Sikhs, they told me that they had been harassed by local fundamentalist Sikh thugs who decided to take them to task because they still worshipped besides Afghan Hindus and did puja with them. From the real taliban to the Sikh Taliban across two continents. Funny eh.

  15. Bobby says:

    This was in Southall, by the way.

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    Doesn’t excuse white washing the tyranny of the taliban. Despite instability and the Soviet invasion Sikhs (and Hindus) lived in peace and were integrated until the Taliban came along and decided to target them.

    The instability launched by the Soviet invasion and subsequent CIA funding of the most extreme groups probably did far more to destabilize the entire country than the assertion of Taliban tribal rule. In fact it was exactly the period following the Soviet invasion and subsequent in-fighting amongst various 'mujahadin' groups that saw the greatest period of exodus of Afghani Sikhs, mainly into India. Caught between a rock and a hard place, many welcomed the stability offered by the Taliban. The population woke up to the Taliban's own form of tyranny.

    Although you claim that I am hardly trying to 'whitewash' or defend the Taliban seems particularly absurd, for I have no truck with them. However, to claim paradigms that fit your political agenda that do not hold up to empirical realities is also problematic, to say the least.

  17. [quote comment=”1901″]Sikh’s had to wear yellow tags under the Taliban rule.[/quote]

    Along with Hindus, with whom they share a temple and pray together. [link]

  18. Bobby says:

    Bobby, it seems even life for Muslims under their reign was also frightening. However, with the breakdown of law and order, this has caused its own version of fright.

    Doesn’t excuse white washing the tyranny of the taliban. Despite instability and the Soviet invasion Sikhs (and Hindus) lived in peace and were integrated until the Taliban came along and decided to target them.

    Along with Hindus, with whom they share a temple and pray together.

    They lived together, protected each other, and worshipped together. When I spoke to a couple of Afghan Sikhs, they told me that they had been harassed by local fundamentalist Sikh thugs who decided to take them to task because they still worshipped besides Afghan Hindus and did puja with them. From the real taliban to the Sikh Taliban across two continents. Funny eh.

  19. Bobby says:

    This was in Southall, by the way.

  20. Mewa Singh says:

    Doesnt excuse white washing the tyranny of the taliban. Despite instability and the Soviet invasion Sikhs (and Hindus) lived in peace and were integrated until the Taliban came along and decided to target them.

    The instability launched by the Soviet invasion and subsequent CIA funding of the most extreme groups probably did far more to destabilize the entire country than the assertion of Taliban tribal rule. In fact it was exactly the period following the Soviet invasion and subsequent in-fighting amongst various ‘mujahadin’ groups that saw the greatest period of exodus of Afghani Sikhs, mainly into India. Caught between a rock and a hard place, many welcomed the stability offered by the Taliban. The population woke up to the Taliban’s own form of tyranny.

    Although you claim that I am hardly trying to ‘whitewash’ or defend the Taliban seems particularly absurd, for I have no truck with them. However, to claim paradigms that fit your political agenda that do not hold up to empirical realities is also problematic, to say the least.

  21. PSV says:

    "…I do believe that this small anecdote helps illustrate the complexities of Afghanistan and beg for us to engage in critical analysis, rather than merely parroting reports in the news media."

    Well said.

    Keep Blogging

  22. PSV says:

    “…I do believe that this small anecdote helps illustrate the complexities of Afghanistan and beg for us to engage in critical analysis, rather than merely parroting reports in the news media.”

    Well said.

    Keep Blogging

  23. hussam says:

    Bobby get your facts straight, the hindus and sikhs had a better life under the taliban because they were not harrased by muslims, also a lot of hindus and sikhs today say that they feel more oppressed and isolated today than they did under the taliban.

  24. hussam says:

    Bobby get your facts straight, the hindus and sikhs had a better life under the taliban because they were not harrased by muslims, also a lot of hindus and sikhs today say that they feel more oppressed and isolated today than they did under the taliban.

  25. hussam says:

    These sikh friends you're talking about, should go to afghanistan and see how the situation changed from bad to worse in their communities. BTW at least under the taliban, hindus and sikhs were given a place for proper cremation.

  26. hussam says:

    These sikh friends you're talking about, should go to afghanistan and see how the situation changed from bad to worse in their communities. BTW at least under the taliban, hindus and sikhs were given a place for proper cremation.

  27. hussam says:

    Suki you're saying that Sikhs and hindus had to wear yellow tags under the taliban, do you even know why the Taliban made them do that? So they could differentiate them with muslims and not get arrested for violating Taliban's law.

  28. hussam says:

    Suki you're saying that Sikhs and hindus had to wear yellow tags under the taliban, do you even know why the Taliban made them do that? So they could differentiate them with muslims and not get arrested for violating Taliban's law.

  29. […] The Taliban is hardly a united grouping. Scholar, Juan Cole, states that there are at least 4 different groups. Further confusing the situation, it must be remembered by the Sikhs that the Taliban in the same region rescued Sikhs before. […]