The Washington Post

Taliban chief Mullah Omar: a poet at heart?

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. (AP)

The book, compiled by writers and researchers Alex Strick Van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn and recently published by Columbia University Press, purports to show another side to the picture of the famed bearded beheaders.

The collection “goes beyond humanizing the Taliban toward understanding them,” says a jacket blurb by Harvard’s Michael Semple, a former deputy European Union representative n Afghanistan.

“Anyone claiming to be an Afghan expert should read this book before giving their next opinion,” writes novelist Mohammed Hanif, author of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes.”

Military and intelligence analysts might find it well worth pursuing, at least as a “know thine enemy” exercise. But it falls a bit short of what American readers may see as great poetry.

For example, there’s the catchy “Strike the enemies of our village with stones!”

“Youths! Be alert! they are spying on our village.

Depart for Jihad; this is a legal obligation.

Kill the traitors of the village in the mountains.

The army of the crazed crusaders will withdraw.”

In Pashtun, it likely sounds more poetic. And remember, these are supposed to be memorized and sung.

Then there’s this one, entitled “Give me your turban,” written by a woman who’s not happy with some of her fellow Taliban:

“Give me your turban and take my veil,

Give me the sword so that the matter will be dealt with.

. . .

Don’t just call yourselves men, how long will you lie there


You sit among the girls; may calamity fall down on your


But there are other poems, such as “Great Guiding Star.”

“When you were born, time brought changes;

Stars were falling on the earth, beauty brought color.

Spring arrived everywhere, red blossoms hugged each others

As you brought the love from love’s world.”

Heckuva a lot better than:

“There once was a guy from Kabul

Who could barely hobble and cobble”

. . .


Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.


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