Back in March, 2001 Taliban rule in Afghanistan first moved into the forefront of my dim awareness of the world when that regime destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas. These giant statues, 121 and 180 feet tall, dating from the 6th century C.E., were carved into niches in sandstone cliffs. Buddhism had long been superceded by Islam; there were no local Buddhists. The statues were historical relics. Successive Muslim rulers had treated them as part of the area's heritage, not blasphemous idols. Even the Taliban at first promised to preserve them; Bamiyan was a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. For reasons about which there is controversy, in March 2001 the Taliban changed their minds: the Islamists claimed the statues had been worshipped as idols by non-believers and must not be allowed to survive.
The whole world, including all 54 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, protested their destruction. What struck me as a very distant observer was that the folks who seemed least exercised by this act of cultural violence were contemporary Buddhists. Yes, there were popular, peaceful protests in Buddhist countries. But the following sentiment was also expressed in many forms:
He goes on to report
Some people understand that responding to fanatical violence with violence only makes for more violence. Can we learn from them?