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History of the Taliban: Who They Are, What They Want

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The Taliban: An Introduction
Pro-Taliban Protests After Friday Prayers in Quetta
Paula Bronstein/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
The Taliban—from the Arabic word for student, “taleb”—are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, mostly from Afghanistan’s Pashtun tribes. The Taliban dominates large swaths of Afghanistan and a large part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Taliban seek to establish a puritanical caliphate that neither recognizes nor tolerates forms of Islam divergent from their own. They scorn democracy or any secular or pluralistic political process as an offense against Islam. The Taliban’s Islam, however, a close kin of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism, is far more perversion than interpretation. The Taliban’s version of Islamic law, or Sharia, is historically inaccurate, contradictory, self-serving and fundamentally deviant from prevailing interpretations of Islamic law and practice.

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