Sunday, 17 February 2008

Gone to the dogs

Interesting choice of target for the latest suicide bombing in Afghanistan: a dog-fighting event in Khandahar. Among the 80 or so victims was a leading local warlord, said to be a well-known opponent of the Taliban. Which I suppose makes him our ally.

According to the BBC report of the incident, "Dog-fighting competitions, which were banned under the Taleban regime, are a popular pastime in Afghanistan."

"Fighting had just started between two dogs," said one spectator, Abdul Karim, when the bomb went off.

It isn't known (or I can't establish) whether the dogs were among the casualties. It is however assumed that the Taliban were responsible for the attack, rather than, say, the militant wing of the RSPCA.

Among their many crimes and eccentricities, the Taliban had, or have, one or two redeeming features. They cracked down, at least to a limited extent, on the drugs trade. They had a Dawkins-like disdain for fortune telling and astrology. And, we now learn, they attempted to outlaw the barbaric spectacle of dog-fighting.

Admittedly, the form of entertainment they used to replace it, public executions, could scarcely be said to constitute a great advance in civilisation. And the grounds on which they opposed dog-fighting are more likely to have been disapproval of gambling, or perhaps a more general aversion to fun, tinged maybe with the well-known anti-dog sentiments of some conservative Muslims. Still, it's a small mark in their favour.

In Britain, dog-fighting was made illegal in 1835. That one of the main signs of freedom marking the end of Taliban domination should have been the resumption of a primitive and evil sport, rather than, say, the abolition of the burqa, shows what a backward, alien and incomprehensible land Afghanistan is, even after more than six years of Western oversight. What on earth are we doing there?

2 comments:

Edwin said...

Hi Heresiarch. Dog fighting is rife also in Pakistan (bearbaiting also I gather) - where it is used both for entertainment and for settling village disputes. The men settle in a circle, the dogs are brought in and fight - often to the death.

People talk about these areas being 'theologically conservartive;' but in fact islamic law and traditions lay hard rules down damning those who take pleasure in animal cruelty. These horrible men need to become more Islamic (in a good way).

The Heresiarch said...

"More Islamic in a good way" is precisely the conundrum, of course. The paradox with the Taliban is the way their clampdowns on real evils (like dogfighting) were of a piece with their clampdowns on girls going to school or women revealing their ankles.

I suspect what you want, what we all want, is for them to become "more Islamic" in our way, in a sort of Rowan Williams way.