Political fanaticism has always been the greatest enemy of freedom and democracy apart from religious fanaticism. The latter penetrates the private realm, violating the most fundamental of human values. It destroys unique cultural monuments for they were the products of an alien religion. Religious fanaticism is not an exclusive characteristic of the Islamic world. The first period after the domination of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire was sealed by the destruction of outstanding monuments of the ancient civilization. Western Europe experienced the horror of the Holy Inquisition. Many centuries have passed since. Our era has been stigmatized by wars, genocides and barbarities, but in periods of normality certain fundamental values were, most often, respected. The Taleban regime came as proof that, even at the dawn of the 21st century, there are still islands of an unprecedented barbarity that we thought the entire human race had left behind. The horrible way in which the Taleban treat women reveals their views of human values. When they lack respect for the most basic human rights it is of no surprise that they destroyed, in spite of reactions worldwide, unique Buddhist monuments which had survived wars and natural disasters. The Islamic regime in Afghanistan has no precedent. Saudi Arabia and Iran are countries which are ruled according to Islamic law but have never indulged the same extremism. In fact, the everyday practices of the Taleban constitute a persistent crime against humanity. Furthermore, their practices lack any political legitimization by the impoverished Afghan people, who, after the devastating consequences of the war against the Soviets and the civil war, are now subject to the tyranny of the Taleban regime. The disaster on September 11 proved that Islamic fundamentalism does not only threaten Muslim societies, it threatens open societies as well. In order to safeguard public security, governments are forced to take measures which, on the one hand, restrict democratic rights and, on the other, hamper a wide range of everyday activities. The price that ordinary people have to pay is huge at all levels. And the terrorist assault raises, above all, the question of protecting the values of an open society.

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