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Monday, December 24, 2012

Religious Fanatics Destroy Timbuktu's Cultural Heritage

Far right "Christian" fundamentalist Bryan Fischer is one of America's noisiest and most virulent anti-Islamic hatemongers. Barely a day goes by when he isn't tweeting some crap about how Islam is not a religion of peace because some crackpots do something outrageous in the name of Allah. Fisher's rage against religionist excess, he never seems to understand, is what lumps him and his followers in with the loathsome Muslim fundamentalists and extremists he derides. He is them; they are him.

A few years ago, Roland and I spent a month traveling through Mali, a unique and edifying experience. Since then, the country has fallen apart... literally. The northern two-thirds of the country have been taken over by the Islamic version-- but religiously and politically-- of Bryan Fischer and his thuggish crowd. And what has ensued should give Americans warning of what would happen if radical right sociopaths like Fischer and the politicians he supports ever get their hands on the levers of power in our own country.

Aside from a couple of superficial mentions by Mitt Romney in the foreign policy presidential debate that doomed his campaign, few Americans have ever heard of Mali. They confuse it with Bali and Maui. No one I tell I went there has a clue where it is, let alone anything about how significant it was historically-- in terms of providing the gold that helped fuel Europe's Renaissance and the music that created American rock'n'roll. But when I mention "Timbuktu" there's usually a glimmer of light behind the eyes-- not that anyone knows where that is either. But at least they've heard of it, usually as some legendary place like Atlantis.

Sunday The Telegraph reported on the latest news in the on-going the Bryan Fischerization of Timbuktu. This is what religion always devolves to:
The rebels' ruthless implementation of their version of Islamic law comes just days after the United Nations approved a military force to wrest back control of the conflict-ridden area.

"Not a single mausoleum will remain in Timbuktu, Allah doesn't like it," Abou Dardar, leader of the Islamist Ansar Dine group, told AFP. "We are in the process of smashing all the hidden mausoleums in the area." Witnesses confirmed the claims.

Anything that doesn't fall under Islam "is not good. Man should only worship Allah," Mohamed Alfoul, a member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said.

The vandalism of the Muslim saints' tombs in the UNESCO World Heritage site came a day after other Islamists in the northern city of Gao announced they had amputated two people's hands.

The continued strict application of sharia law is seen as a sign that the armed Islamist groups are unfazed by the UN's green light for the African-led military operation.

Planners have said any intervention cannot be launched before September next year. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian however told Monday's edition of La Croix newspaper that he thought it could be launched in the first half of 2013.

In July, Islamists destroyed the entrance to a 15th-century mosque in Timbuktu, the so-called "City of 333 Saints."

"The Islamists are currently in the process of destroying all the mausoleums in the area with pickaxes," one witness said.

"I saw Islamists get out of a car near the historic mosque of Timbuktu. They smashed a mausoleum behind a house shouting 'Allah is great, Allah is great'," another resident told AFP.

As well as in cemeteries and mosques, the revered mausoleums are found in alleyways and private residences of the city, an ancient centre of learning and a desert crossroads.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, condemned the Islamists.

A statement from her office said she was "deeply shocked by the brutal destruction of mausoleums and holy shrines in Timbuktu...

"Their destruction is a tragedy not only for the people of Mali, but for the whole world."

Ansar Dine began destroying the cultural treasures in July.

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