Malaysia urges Taliban not to destroy statues

KUALA LUMPUR - Predominantly Muslim Malaysia appealed to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban on Monday to reconsider their decision to destroy ancient Buddhist statues.

"Malaysia joins other nations in appealing to the Taliban to reconsider rescinding the decision regarding the Bamiyan Buddhas," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said in a statement.

"We appeal to the Taliban to protect Afghanistan's rich cultural sites and artefacts which have been declared part of the world's cultural heritage," he said.

The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, ordered the destruction of all statues last week, calling them idols contrary to Islam. On Monday, he rejected widespread international condemnation and defended his order as an honour for Islam and the nation.

It remains unclear whether the two towering ancient Buddhas carved out of a cliff face in Bamiyan, one 175 feet (53 metres) and the other 120 feet (36.5 metres) tall, have been destroyed.

Syed Hamid said Islam, as a universal religion of peace and tolerance, respects and guarantees the rights and freedom of non-Muslims to practise their faith including respect for their places of worship.

07:23 03-05-01

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