The resistance to the American presence in Afghanistan centers on Islam. “Afghan imams wage political battle against U.S.,” by Joshua Partlow and Habib Zahori for the Washington Post, February 17 (thanks to Twostellas):
KABUL – For the U.S. government, and for the 100,000 American troops fighting in Afghanistan, the messages delivered last Friday could hardly have been worse.
Under the weathered blue dome of Kabul’s largest mosque, a distinguished preacher, Enayatullah Balegh, pledged support for “any plan that can defeat” foreign military forces in Afghanistan, denouncing what he called “the political power of these children of Jews.”
Across town, a firebrand imam named Habibullah was even more blunt.
“Let these jackals leave this country,” the preacher, who uses only one name, declared of foreign troops. “Let these brothers of monkeys, gorillas and pigs leave this country. The people of Afghanistan should determine their own fate.”
The Qur’an calls Jews apes and pigs in three separate places: 2:62-65; 5:59-60; and 7:166.
Every Friday, Afghan clerics wade into the politics of their war-torn country, delivering half-hour sermons that blend Islamic teaching with often-harsh criticism of the U.S. presence. In a country where many lack newspapers, television or Internet access, the mosque lectures represent a powerful forum for influencing opinion.
The raw frustration voiced in these sermons is periodically echoed by President Hamid Karzai in his somewhat more diplomatic criticism of the West. Although cast in tones of prayer and contemplation, the messages from the mosques pose a serious and delicate problem for President Obama’s counterinsurgency strategy: how to respect the sacredness of Islam without conceding the propaganda war.
In Afghanistan’s mosques, American troops are derided as crusaders and occupiers. Officials with the U.S.-backed government are accused of corruption and deceit. Even in Kabul, the most modern city in an impoverished country, imams regularly denounce American troops and label as stooges their Afghan partners….
Because the Taliban is led by mullahs and seeks followers in part by casting itself as a defender of Islam, other religious leaders in Afghanistan must take the group’s views into account. Several said that the Taliban’s orthodox interpretation of Islam has flaws and that its reliance on funding and support from Pakistan further discredits the organization. But their arguments against the presence of foreign forces are more categorical….
Note that the Washington Post here admits in passing that the Taliban’s interpretation of Islam is orthodox, not a twisted, hijacked version developed by a Tiny Minority of Extremists.
A sense of religious conflict also underlies the criticism. The reason that the insurgency has grown so strong in recent years, said Abdul Bashir Hafif, an imam at a private mosque in a wealthy Kabul neighborhood, is that “Americans are considered to be Christians and Jews.”…
The United States has also sought to temper the mullahs’ rhetoric. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has spent millions of dollars to fly mullahs to the United States and other countries to meet Muslims outside Afghanistan in the hope of encouraging a more moderate stance. The U.S. military funds mosque refurbishment projects and is partnering with the Afghan religious affairs ministry to facilitate building an electronic database of mosques.
A senior U.S. military official said dozens of mosques in key Afghan districts are used as “command-and-control nodes” for the Taliban, places where fighters can take refuge and stash weapons.
“The Taliban has used that network of mosques to extend their message,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss U.S. intelligence information. “Many, many mosques are directly linked back to the madrassas [in Pakistan] and teachings of the Taliban.”
On Feb. 3, Afghan intelligence agents said they had raided a small mosque in a narrow, muddy lane in a Kabul slum. Inside the imam’s bedroom, stashed in metal boxes, they found two dozen mines, which they said were intended to blow up Kabul’s airport. The disruption of the alleged plot and the arrest of the imam, 23-year-old Abdul Rahman, was a small but significant victory for Afghan authorities.
But by the next day, in his Friday sermon across town, an imam cast suspicion on the arrest.
“Who was he really working for?” Enayatullah Karimi said to dozens gathered at the Ayub Khan Mina mosque. “The Jews and Christians are training some Islamic scholars. They have beards and wear turbans just like us.”
“The Jews and Christians are our enemies,” Karimi told the crowd. “No doubt about it.”
Anger over comment
It was a comment by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) – calling for permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan – that set Habibullah, the firebrand imam, off.
“There are some nut cases with pro-West and pro-infidel ideas who are urging President Karzai to accept the Americans’ offer,” he said last Friday. “But no matter how well protected these people are in the arms of foreigners, they should know that God will take revenge on them and turn their bones and flesh into dried spiderweb powder.”…