HERAT -- More than 3,000 residents of Herat Province, including religious scholars and ordinary men, women and children, gathered in Herat city Friday (April 12) to call on the Taliban and other militants to end their violence.
While many labelled the ongoing peace efforts as "hopeful," religious scholars at the rally decried the Taliban's justification of its violent campaign.
"Islam prevents its followers from wasting a trickle of water, so how could it be possible that this religion permits one to shed the blood of an innocent human being?" Sayed Mohammad Shirzadi, director of the Herat provincial department for religious affairs and the Hajj, told Salaam Times.
"Allah has cursed such people in the Koran," he said.
"The Taliban are misusing the name of Islam to justify their atrocities, and their war doesn't have a place in Islam," Shirzadi said.
'Not for the sake of Islam'
The war by the Taliban is a result of the insurgents' "ignorance" of Islam, said Qari Sayed Muhammad Sadaat, a religious scholar in Herat Province.
"From the viewpoint of Islam, killing one human being is akin to killing all of humanity," he told Salaam Times, adding that any act that sheds blood has no connection to Islam.
"The ongoing war in Afghanistan is not for the sake of Islam, but it is rather a display of their [the Taliban's] ignorance," Sadaat added.
"This war is a result of interference of the enemies of the Afghan people," he said. "It has divided Afghans by geographic location, language and ethnicity, and this is how they [the enemies] pursue their evil goals."
Peace should be the ultimate goal in Afghanistan, said Mawlawi Abdul Haq Mowafaq, another religious scholar in Herat city.
"Peace is one of the orders of God for human beings" and "we have to pay tribute to it," he told Salaam Times. "Unfortunately, our innocent and defenceless civilians are being killed throughout Afghanistan, which is very painful."
"God has warned those who kill innocent Muslims and other human beings," Mowafaq added. "Afghans have to wake up and realise that this has nothing to do with Islam."
A call for peace
The peace process is the best path forward, said Muhammad Farooq Ahadi, also among the 2,000 religious scholars at the rally.
"The Taliban should come and make peace with the government," he said. "Peace is in everyone's interest and based on the orders of Allah. All of them [the government, citizens and the Taliban] should sit together and resolve their issues and differences through peace and dialogue."
Herat Province residents at the rally expressed optimism that an end to violence in Afghanistan may be on the horizon.
Still, for most, peace cannot come soon enough.
"We request that the Taliban and all the other armed anti-government groups join the peace process the soonest they can," Fawad Popal, 26, a resident of Herat city, told Salaam Times. "How long will this bloodshed continue? The Taliban must live alongside other Afghans. They must stop the war so that everyone can live in peace."
"This war, this bloodshed has been going on since I was born," he added. "We are tired of this war, and it must stop."
Afghans "are thirsty for peace", said Abdul Razaq Sadaat, 37, another resident of the area
"We never want war and insecurity," he told Salaam Times. "We are fed up with the war and the killings. Afghans want peace and prosperity just like other nations. This meaningless war must end."
"What have Afghans done to the Taliban that they're killing Afghans?" he added. "Why are the Taliban relating everything to Islam? The Taliban should enhance their religious knowledge and have some mercy on their people, who are thirsty for peace."
The time is now for the militants to lay down their arms, agreed Jawed Ahmadi, 28, of Herat city.
"This war has continued for nearly 18 years ,and all Afghans -- the young and the elderly -- are tired of this war," he said. "Continuation of this war favours neither the government nor the Taliban nor the Afghan people."