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Poetry of the Taliban, a soon-to-be-released collection of poetry written by Taliban fighters, faced a storm of criticism this past week. The book’s editors — two scholars — acknowledged that one strongly voiced complaint they hear is that their book will be giving voice to terrorists.
Richard Kemp, a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, recently raised the stakes when he publicly decried the book as “self-justifying propaganda”:
What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs who suppress women and kill people without mercy if they do not agree with them, and of course are killing our soldiers. It doesn’t do anything but give the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country.
Alex Strick van Linschoten, one of the book’s editors, argues instead that the book reveals the human side of the Taliban: “The poetry shows that the Taliban are people just like we are, with feeling, concerns, anxieties like ours.” The book’s cover art makes this line of argument quite clear. It portrays a lone, distant figure in a gorgeous landscape — framing the book’s poets as more Wordsworth than warrior.
The poems themselves support both sides of the debate. Some of them rail against the U.S. and its allies, conveying a predictable fanaticism. Others celebrate love and landscapes, and even convey doubt. These can be strikingly disarming.
Poetry of the Taliban is scheduled for release in the United States next month.
Read more: Huffington Post