The Islamist Factor

Afghanistan Table of Contents

Political ingenuity and combat sophistication were largely attributable to the Islamists, often referred to as fundamentalists. By the end of the 1970s, some thousands of Afghan male students had graduated from government run madrasas, that is, higher level schools for Islamic study, roughly equivalent to secondary education. Other thousands had studied at Kabul University and the technical institutions that were clustered at there. Many retained or strengthened their faith in Islam during their studies (many of the others joined Khalq and Parcham). Most also had rural roots and had returned home in the aftermath of the Marxist takeover of Kabul. Their combination of religious belief and exposure to modern ideas and knowledge provided the basis for their unique contribution to the mujahidin cause.

Thus, not all Afghans with modern educations fled or served the Marxist government. Many in the rural sector of the emerging middle class contributed Islamist views of Afghanistan's predicament. Accepting the value of such features of modern civilization as natural science, technological innovation, economic progress and popular government, Islamists claimed that these achievements were compatible with Islam. They argued that Muslim morality was consistent with different human conditions and achievements and that there could be an Islamist way of applying modern forms of government and economic progress to Afghan society. Their vision, skills, and commitment were vital to the mujahidin cause. Many were among the most effective commanders. Others participated in the military and political arrangements linking fighting units to the expatriate parties. They also staffed the bureaucracies of those parties.

True to the nature of their society, Afghan Islamists did not reach a consensus on solving the riddle of Afghanistan's future. They also clashed with their more orthodox colleagues in the resistance. They offered informed leadership after usurpation, war and flight left the rural population without urban leadership.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress