Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It Isn't About Religious Purity--It's About Destroying Things

Most of you probably have heard of the Muslim rebels (terrorists) in Mali destroying Muslim tombs in Timbuktu. The New York Times reminds us that this is not the first time:
IN the past week, Islamists have destroyed and desecrated the tombs of Muslim saints in the fabled town of Timbuktu in northern Mali, recalling the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of two giant Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.

In defiance of the West and many local Muslims, Islamists in northern Mali are prohibiting people from worshiping at tombs and erecting structures on graves. Although both practices are widespread throughout the Muslim world, religious extremists consider them un-Islamic and are seeking to stamp them out.
The LA Times provides some more detail:
Islamist rebels who have seized control of northern Mali used axes, shovels and automatic weapons to destroy tombs and other cultural and religious monuments for a third day on Monday, including bashing in the door of a 15th century mosque in Timbuktu, news agencies reported.

Rebels of the Ansar Dine faction fighting to assert Sharia law over the African nation at the crossroads of ancient trade routes ignored the appeals of United Nations officials over the weekend to cease the "wanton destruction" of the region's cultural heritage.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday called on "all parties to exercise their responsibility to preserve the cultural heritage of Mali," saying the attacks "are totally unjustified.”

Irina Bokova, head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, on Saturday urged the Ansar Dine fighters “to stop these terrible and irreversible acts” after militants smashed mud-walled tombs in Timbuktu.

On Monday, the Islamists, who claim allegiance to Al Qaeda, tore open the door to the Sidi Yahia mosque, telling townspeople they were wiping out "idolatry" at the monuments to Sufi Islamic saints and scholars.

"In legend, it is said that the main gate of Sidi Yahia mosque will not be opened until the last day [of the world]," said the town imam, Alpha Abdoulahi, according to Reuters news agency, which reached him in Timbuktu by telephone.

In radio and television interviews from Senegal, the newly appointed chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, warned the rebels that destruction of religious and cultural heritage could lead to war crimes charges.

“The only tribunal we recognize is the divine court of Sharia,” the Associated Press quoted Ansar Dine spokesmen Oumar Ould Hamaha as saying in response to Bensouda's warning.
The articles try to suggest that this is an aberration. However, tombs in remote Timbuktu and ancient Buddhist statutes in Afghanistan is not where this is going to end. Frontpage Magazine reports:
According to several reports in the Arabic media, prominent Muslim clerics have begun to call for the demolition of Egypt’s Great Pyramids—or, in the words of Saudi Sheikh Ali bin Said al-Rabi‘i, those “symbols of paganism,” which Egypt’s Salafi party has long planned to cover with wax. Most recently, Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs” and President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud, called on Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Morsi, to “destroy the Pyramids and accomplish what the Sahabi Amr bin al-As could not.”

This is a reference to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s companion, Amr bin al-As and his Arabian tribesmen, who invaded and conquered Egypt circa 641. Under al-As and subsequent Muslim rule, many Egyptian antiquities were destroyed as relics of infidelity. While most Western academics argue otherwise, according to early Muslim writers, the great Library of Alexandria itself—deemed a repository of pagan knowledge contradicting the Koran—was destroyed under bin al-As’s reign and in compliance with Caliph Omar’s command.

However, while book-burning was an easy activity in the 7th century, destroying the mountain-like pyramids and their guardian Sphinx was not—even if Egypt’s Medieval Mamluk rulers “de-nosed” the latter during target practice (though popular legend still attributes it to a Westerner, Napoleon).

Now, however, as Bahrain’s “Sheikh of Sheikhs” observes, and thanks to modern technology, the pyramids can be destroyed. The only question left is whether the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt is “pious” enough—if he is willing to complete the Islamization process that started under the hands of Egypt’s first Islamic conqueror.

Nor is such a course of action implausible. History is laden with examples of Muslims destroying their own pre-Islamic heritage—starting with Islam’s prophet Muhammad himself, who destroyed Arabia’s Ka‘ba temple, transforming it into a mosque.

Asking “What is it about Islam that so often turns its adherents against their own patrimony?” Daniel Pipes provides several examples, from Medieval Muslims in India destroying their forefathers’ temples, to contemporary Muslims destroying their non-Islamic heritage in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Malaysia, and Tunisia.
It is like angry children destroying their own toys (or those of someone else) out of spite.

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