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Local Afghans clap and cheer after listening to Al Haj Haji Merdel, an Islamic religious scholar and respected holy man, during shura at Marine Corps Forward Operating Base Camp Hansen, Marjah, Afghanistan, Nov. 13, denouncing the Taliban’s use of Jihad as a justification for years of war and fighting in Afghanistan. Helmand Province government officials, along with local holy men, said the Taliban was using Jihad as a false pretext to fight foreign nations in Afghanistan.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

Helmand Province officials denounce Taliban’s use of jihad as means of fighting in Afghanistan

13 Nov 2010 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

Helmand province government officials gathered with local elders during a shura at Marine Corps Forward Operating Base Camp Hanson, Nov. 13, to denounce the Taliban’s use of jihad as a justification for years of war and fighting in Afghanistan.

For nearly three decades, Afghanistan has been at war, which has been fomented by Taliban propaganda leading Afghans to believe they’re fighting for Islam.

Government officials, along with prestigious local holy men, understand the dilemma and adressed it during the recent shura.

“In the past years, we have experienced a lot of lost lives,” said Alisha Khan Muslimyar, cultural chief of Helmand province. We have seen our own brothers, children, family and friends pass. We are not looking at the past. We are looking towards the future; we cannot let history repeat itself!”

Through years of fear and intimidation, the Taliban has convinced some locals in the area that foreign forces are here to force their religion on them and implement a nonIslamic government in a fully Islamic culture, said Muslimyar.

“Now we have Taliban who are abusing the name of Islam to try and justify their cause and persuade uneducated people to fight against our government in the name of Islam,” said Muslimyar. “For god’s sake people, stop it. If you want true Islamic rule, our foreign friends, ANA and ANCOP are here to help.”

Muslimyar asked the crowd to look at the true meaning of jihad. He explained how the Taliban’s uses it for personal gain, not from religious conviction.The Taliban are hypocrites, routinely violating the principles of Islam through their campaign of violence, he said.

“This is not a jihad,” yelled Muslimyar to the crowd. “Do you think killing our scholars and destroying our own infrastructure is jihad? If someone is burning buildings to the ground intentionally is that jihad? If someone is killing someone intentionally is that jihad? They have killed prominent village elders and religious men; is that jihad?”

Al Haj Haji Merdel, an Islamic religious scholar and one of the most respected holy men in Marjah, clarified what their religion teaches.

“According to our religion, if anyone is killing an innocent person, their gift in the end will be an eternity of fire in hell,” said Merdel. “It doesn’t matter what religion you are. If you commit an evil act on anyone, it doesn’t matter if they are Muslim or not; it is wrong and against the true meaning of Islam.”

Merdel said the Taliban like to go into areas where education is virtually non-existent and it’s easier for them to corrupt minds with their twisted interpretation of jihad.

“If you are educated you will know the difference between a friend and a foe,” said Muslimyar. “You will be able to tell the difference between what the Koran really says and the difference between an exaggerated version that is used by the Taliban for their personal gain.”

Muslimyar continued pressing the crowd on how the validity of the Taliban’s rationale for jihad.

“Why aren’t they doing jihad somewhere else,” said Muslimyar. “Why are they doing it in your country? Because they are messing with your security and do not want stability. They want to use you. Wake up people! They are trying to abuse you; don’t you see this?”

The crowd focused in on Muslimyar as he painted a picture of what life would be like if the Taliban ran their government.

“If the Taliban were to take over this country, there would be complete instability,” said Muslimyar. “Our roads would be ridden with bombs, our mosques would be turned into training facilities to make explosives and lives would be lost. And for what, their claims of jihad?”

“It is a joke,” said Merdel, laughing as he addressed the crowd. “The Taliban gives people who come to Afghanistan for jihad a piece of paper saying it is their ticket into heaven. I’m sure you will see some foolish man dying holding this piece of paper.”

The crowd erupted with laughter.

As the shura ended, Marines handed out fresh fruit and mingled with the crowd. Elders could be seen hugging Marines and children were laughing.

“There is a difference between real Muslims, who are working for their country and working for the greater good of their fellow man, [and] a Muslim who bases his faith on fear and intimidation,” said Muslimyar. “We are not the ones who lie to get what we want and tarnish the true meaning of Islam; love one another.”