Politicization of Mosques in Afghanistan: Mullahs, Spiritual Leaders or Antagonistic Preachers?
(Georgia State University )
Arguably, one of the most detrimental impacts of four decades of wars in Afghanistan has been politicisation of mosques. Following the communist revolution in Afghanistan and the subsequent Soviet Army invasion in the late 1970s, began civil wars that increased the role of religion in political affairs. Many mullahs and imams, who formerly played the role of apolitical spiritual leaders, were forced to take sides in conflicts as they were either co-opted by the communist regime or became a target. Furthermore, mosques in cities and the periphery where control of the central government was limited became a platform for promoting anti-government agendas of various mujahidin factions. The Taliban regime further blurred the lines between religion and politics as the country was virtually run by mullahs. More recently, the number of unregistered mosques has spiked in the country and with it a wave of radicalisation has spread throughout. While much is written and discussed about Afghanistan, very limited scholarly attention has been devoted to the role of mosques and religious leaders in fuelling or preventing conflicts. This research aims to fill in this gap by analysing the role of mosques, and the clergy over the past four decades. The paper is based on extensive desk research and published material and 52 in-depth interviews in Kabul, Herat and Nangarhar provinces. The findings bring into light the ebbs and flows of politicisation of mosques in the country and critically analyse the dynamics of this process which has been contested and resisted by some Mullahs and local communities and embraced and adapted by others.
Religion and Identity in Afghanistan