Taliban's assassination of religious scholars aims to suppress dissent

By Najibullah

Afghans are shown in prayer on Eid-ul Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, at Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul on May 13. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

Afghans are shown in prayer on Eid-ul Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, at Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul on May 13. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]

KABUL -- The Taliban's campaign to assassinate religious scholars who deem the militants' fight as illegitimate is part of an ongoing effort to squash dissent from the very segment of society the Taliban needs to justify its so-called "jihad".

In the latest instance, militants killed Mawlawi Samiullah Rashed, a religious scholar, on his way to a funeral in Logar on June 12.

The Taliban stopped Rashed's vehicle and shot him, Hasibullah Stanikzai, chairman of the Logar provincial council, told reporters on June 13.

Earlier, on June 3, gunmen fatally shot Mawlawi Mohammad Kababyani, deputy chairman of the Ulema Council of the western region in Injil district, Herat province, as he was walking home from a mosque.

On March 3, gunmen assassinated Mawlawi Faiz Mohammad Fayez, a lecturer at Kabul Arabic Dar Ul Olom (Academy) and former chairman of the Kunduz Ulema Council, in Kabul.

On February 2, Mohammad Atif, chairman of the Jamiat-e-Eslah Central Council, was killed in an explosion in Kabul.

With no exact figures available, estimates of the number of scholars killed in attacks vary.

The Afghan National Security Council said in a statement on April 9 that 28 religious scholars had been assassinated by the Taliban in the past year in 14 provinces.

However, Mawlawi Abdul Salam Abid, an Afghan religious scholar, stated on June 4 that 1,200 religious scholars were killed over the past 18 months.

The Taliban target various scholars for different reasons, according to Salem Hussaini, a religious scholar and adviser to President Ashraf Ghani.

"The first group is scholars who operate within the system and the government. They are the primary target since they elevate the legitimacy of the government," he said.

"The second group is scholars who do not operate within the government but live under its banner and work as imams and professors. They are the easy targets," Hussaini said.

"The third group is the scholars who neither support nor oppose the Taliban," he added. "They target these scholars too to scare them off and force them to distance themselves from the government."

Silencing religious scholars

The Taliban are trying to silence the voice of truth and justice by targeting scholars, say Afghans.

"In many cases when an Afghan National Army soldier or civilians are martyred, scholars condemn [the Taliban's actions]," Hussaini said. "This causes the Taliban to care what scholars say.

The killing of religious scholars is "forbidden since they are enlightened and guide people to the right path", said Waliullah Labib, a religious scholar in Kabul.

"Those who kill scholars either do not believe in Islam or are deceived and brainwashed," he said.

"If you sit in an Islamic gathering, no one can prove that the war in Afghanistan is an Islamic jihad; therefore, whoever raises his voice is targeted by the group's militants," Labib said.

The Taliban target scholars who try to tell Taliban militants not to be deceived by their leaders and to end fratricide, said Mariam Mohammadi, a resident of Herat province.

"Kababyani, for example, was a religious scholar who always encouraged the public to do good and encouraged anti-government elements to seek peace," she said, referring to the Herat province cleric assassinated on June 3.

"He opposed the continuation of the war and fratricide in Afghanistan," she said.

"I think armed anti-government elements are behind this because they don't want to make peace and do not want scholars to talk about their illegitimate war," Mohammadi said.

"The Taliban, unfortunately, target any religious scholar who dares to reject this group's false jihad," said Jalil Noori, a private university student in Kabul.

He mentioned Mawlawi Ayaz Niazi and Mawlawi Azizullah Mufleh, who were killed in explosions in mosques in Kabul last year.

Both scholars "had repeatedly called the ongoing war in Afghanistan illegitimate and denounced suicide attacks", he said. "As a result, showing great disregard for Islam, the Taliban killed them inside mosques."

"The majority of scholars know that the Taliban's war is illegitimate, and they explicitly declared this in the historic jirga held in Kabul in 2019," said Zabiullah Akbari, 35, a resident of Kabul city and a government employee.

"Since then, the Taliban have been watching the activities of scholars and target any scholar who raises the voice of truth," he added.

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In fact, the Afghan government, as well as the International Community, should be blame in this area because they were not able to even in a period of twenty years, return the refugee Afghans from Pakistan and Iran and destroy the nests of the recruitment of fighting and fighters that Pakistan and Iran have established on their territories.

Even today, if the Afghan government and the International Community really make the program of returning Afghans and give a period of 6 months to a year and say that they will accept only the Afghans returning up to 30.06.2022, and those who will not return till the mentioned date, they will not be accepted; however, before the process of return begins, the government should allocate a desert in each province and draw maps of the residential plots. Whether they have a residence in Afghanistan or not, whoever returns will have the right to start living in such residential towns.

If they make a tube well per 1000 families and people are provided with water, it is enough, the people themselves will make houses for themselves. The people themselves will make shops, markets, schools, seminaries, clinics, because wherever a residential town is made, there they need teachers, there they need drivers, there they need barbers, there they need carpenters, there they need mullahs, cooks… and these people themselves will make houses and life for themselves; however, it would be better if they are provided with a tent and up to $3,000 per family, t