(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday): I welcome the statement by the Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar expressing the government’s concern over the destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues including the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Talibans in Afghanistan, although it has taken him four days since I spoke to him by phone urging the government to take an immediate position on the Taliban’s obscurantist course of cultural terrorism.
Malaysia should not just make an appeal to the Taliban to reconsider the destruction of the statues, but must playing a leading role in efforts by the international society to save the Afghanistan’s Buddhist artifacts, which have become part of the world’s cultural heritage.
For a start, the Cabinet at its meeting tomorrow should join Iran, India, Greece and other countries to extend an offer to take Afghanistan’s historic Buddha statues into safe-keeping in Malaysia to save the priceless heritage of mankind from senseless destruction.
It has been reported that Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil had on Sunday rejected an Iranian offer to take Afghanistan's historic Buddha statues into safe-keeping.
The Afghan foreign minister told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency that a senior official of the Iranian foreign ministry made the offer to Mutawakil by phone on Sunday morning, but Mutawakil had rejected both Iran's offer to buy the statues from Afghanistan or remove them to Iran for safe-keeping, saying both options were in conflict with Islamic teaching. "We accept it is our duty to protect archaeological heritage," Mutawakil said, "but Islam is against keeping statues. Hence the order to destroy them."
The Greek government has offered to buy the Buddhist artworks remaining in the Kabul museum while the Taliban has not yet responded to India's offer to store the two monumental Buddha statues, including the world’s tallest standing Buddha, in Bamiyan province that were slated for destruction.
I have no doubt that if the government extends the offer to protect the Afghan Buddhas by keeping them in Malaysia for safekeeping, there would be a tremendous response from the Malaysian people, not only from Buddhist organisations but also from other religions, to make their contribution to help preserve the priceless cultural treasures of mankind.