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Have You Seen the 'Poetry of the Taliban?' Book (Yes, This Exists)


"I stoned him with the stones of light tears..."

Did you know that there's a new book that intends to show the "softer side of the Taliban?" The literary work, entitled, "Poetry of the Taliban," is apparently an anthology that includes selections from radical Islamist fighters in Afghanistan.

The extremely controversial book was assembled by European researchers Felix Kuehn and Alex Strick van Linschoten. While critics are dismissing these men and claiming that they have put together a work composed primarily of propaganda, the two, based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, are defending their work. Here's more, based on an account from the Los Angeles Times (via Stars and Stripes):

But they say the poems help illuminate a much-documented yet little-understood insurgency.

"For some people, it's going to be offensive, yes - maybe very offensive," said co-editor Felix Kuehn, who with his collaborator, Alex Strick van Linschoten, has published a number of academic works on the Taliban. "But we think it's a way to see how they see the world."

The book, which was published in Britain this year and will be released in the United States this month by Columbia University Press, came about almost by accident.

For years, as the two researchers scoured Pashto-language websites, gathered oral histories and painstakingly cultivated intermediaries with ties to the Taliban, they began running across scraps of poetry, scattered haphazardly among the group's strident communiques and lengthy policy statements.

The authors have extensive experience writing and researching about terror in the region. As they encountered the poems and began collecting them, they realized that a pattern was appearing. The works were very personal and provide what they believe to be a lens into the complicated worldview of terrorists. Thus, they decided to put them together into the book that is now raising eyebrows.

"The contrast between the severity of their professed ideology and the license of the Taliban’s aesthetic sensibilities – in which unrequited love, bloody vengeance and the thrill of battle, religion and nationalism, even a desire for non-violence, are expressed through images of wine, powerful women, song, legend and pastoral beauty – provide a fascinating insight into the minds and hearts of these deeply emotional people," the authors explain on a web site setup to promote the book.

So, what do these poems say, you ask? Here's one of the selections:

"I stoned him with the stones of light tears / then I hung my sorrow on the gallows. ... / It might have been the wine of your memory / that made my heart drunk five times."

And here's another:

"I know the black, black mountains / My home is the mountain; my village is the mountain ... / I know the black ditches ... / I know the hot trenches."

Despite the so-called beauty -- or clarity -- that some may see in this poetry, critics remind those supporting the book that the individuals behind the poems are radical theocrats who are considered dangerous -- even murderous.

"What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs," said Richard Kemp, a retired colonel who commanded military forces for the British in Afghanistan.

Kemp continued, telling the Guardian newspaper that the book gives "the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country."

Read more about the controversial book here.

(H/T: Business Insider)

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