Protests against the “targeted killing of Hazaras” is gaining ground in Herat.
To pacify the situation, the Taliban’s governor of the province Noor Mohammad Islamjar has told the Shia community elders that there is no prejudice or discrimination in the Taliban's system.
It is however, interesting to note that earlier, the same governor in an Arabic book, had described the Shia sect of Islam as a "takfiri sect" [unbelievers] and "partners of infidels throughout history".
Usually, attacks on Shias, particularly the Hazara Shia community members, have been attributed to extremist groups such as ISIS, who excommunicate Shias and carry out attacks against them.
On December 2, the Taliban’s governor assured Shia and Hazara elders that the group would "protect all Afghans”, attributing such violence to the "divisiveness of enemies”.
However, Islamjar had authored a book in Arabic titled "Investigations into the Maturidite Faith”. A part of the book is dedicated to Shia Islam, and the author's perspective is characterised by hostility, rejecting their religious beliefs.
On Monday, Nisar Ahmad Elyas, Herat governor's spokesperson, confirmed to Afghanistan International that the book had been authored by Islamjar.
On page 174 of the book, Islamjar introduced "Shia" as the "unbelievers’ sect", which according to him "was founded by Abdullah Ibn Saba, the Jew". From his point of view, "belief in Imamate" which is one of the five principles of the Shia sect, requires "denying the end of prophethood, rejection of monotheism, and accepting in the distortion of the Quran”.
The number of Shia sect followers is estimated to be between 154 million and 200 million people worldwide.
Shias comprise majority of populations in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Yemen. A significant population of Shias also live in Afghanistan. Following the rise of ISIS attacks in Afghanistan, this religious-ethnic group has been continuously targeted by bloody attacks.
The Taliban’s governor for Herat, who describes himself as a senior Taliban thinker and teacher, believes that Shias have historically served as "a tool for the infidels" among Muslims.
It remains unclear to what extent the book reflects the views of other Taliban officials regarding the Shias. However, a source told Afghanistan International that "the book is being taught as an educational source in some Taliban madrassas”.
A large population of Shias and Hazaras live in Herat province, which is bordering Iran. Despite religious and political differences with the Taliban, the Iranian government has a good relationship with this Sunni Islamist group [Taliban].
Shia as unbelievers
Islamjar, in his book, calls Shias as “infields” and accuses them of blaspheming the companions of the Prophet of Islam.
However, he added, "One should be careful in excommunicating all Shias, because there may be people among them who have believed in this sect out of ignorance."
Shias in Afghanistan consider themselves victims of discrimination and oppression. In Afghanistan, they accuse the ISIS and Taliban of genocide.
In countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sunni extremist groups have consistently labeled Shias as "polytheists and atheists”, targeting both individuals and their places of worship.
Although the Taliban governor in Herat did not prescribe violence against Shias in the book, he agrees with the extremist groups that targets Shiites in Pakistan and Afghanistan in calling them as infidels.
In the past two days, Herat has seen protests by Hazaras following the shooting of two clerics and four Shia Hazara women.
Following the incident, residents of Herat protested over the killing of Hazaras and Shias by carrying the corpse of those who were shot in Jebrael area on Friday evening.
In recent months, Herat has experienced a series of assassinations targeting Shia clerics, attributed to "unknown armed men”.
Following the assassinations of Shia clerics in Herat, many have accused both the Taliban and ISIS of targeting them.
Critics said that given the Taliban's 23-year history of discrimination against Hazaras and Shias, the group could be responsible for the recent chain of assassinations of Shia clerics in Herat.
Taliban is accused of massacres and mass killing of Hazaras and Shia civilians in Mazar-e-Sharif city in 1998 and Yakaolang district of Bamiyan province in 2001.