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Even wonders of the world aren't safe from terrorists



Published: Mon, January 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's easy to understand why Indian authorities would take seriously a threat allegedly made by Islamists against the famous Taj Mahal.

India's government said it received an e-mailed threat from Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, an Islamic militant group.

Not to worry, a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba spokesman told the press. The group would never harm the Taj Mahal because it contains a mosque and it is a symbol of Muslim rule in India. Almost as an afterthought, it appears, the spokesman added that Lashkar-e-Tayyaba doesn't pick on civilian targets.

But Indian authorities say Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was behind last month's deadly attack on India's parliament, and most people would consider a legislative building to be a civilian target.

Islamic militants simply don't inspire confidence when they talk about their respect for nonmilitary targets.

Nothing is sacred: And it's not as if Islamic radicals have a very good track record for respecting cultural icons either. Sometime after the Taliban became infamous for its oppression of woman and before it became infamous for supporting Osama bin Laden's attack on the United States, there was the matter of the Buddha at Bamiyan.

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban announced in advance that it intended to destroy two immense carvings of Buddha in the rock cliffs of Bamiyan.

Despite almost universal condemnation of the plan, the Taliban hammered the Buddhas into dust with mortars, cannons and explosives.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is today the second most wanted man in or around Afghanistan, said it was the duty of all true believers to demolish idols -- even those that were 1,500 years old and considered world treasures.

So India is probably right to be uneasy about the security of the Taj Mahal, even if it does contain a mosque.

The marble palace is actually a mausoleum for an early-17th century princess, built for her after she died in childbirth. The main building took 11 years to construct, using 20,000 workers a day. The entire complex took another 11 years to complete, but was less labor intensive.

Such monumental enterprises become targets for nihilists regardless of whether they were built by Muslims, Hindus, Christians or Jews. Some people just feel a need to destroy, thinking that they will then be able to build something better.




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