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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Destruction facilitates subjugation.

The recent occupation of Timbuktu by Islamists and their destruction of invaluable cultural artifacts has brought to light the controversial Islamic practice of cultural vandalism. Why they do this is no mystery, even if it is poorly understood by outsiders.

A cellphone captures the image of an Islamist fighter during the destruction of Timbuktu's treasures.

A cellphone captures the image of an Islamist fighter during the destruction of Timbuktu's treasures.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (

2/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Islam, Taliban, artifacts, Timbuktu, priceless, destroy, pyramids, extremists

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Taliban Islamists notoriously destroyed two statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan, despite pleas to spare them for their cultural value. More recently, extremists looted the city of Timbuktu and destroyed the fabled "End of the World" gate in that city as well as thousands of historical manuscripts.

They have also called for the destruction of the pyramids, 5,000 year-old structures that were considered ancient, even in the time of Christ.

Why do they do this?

First, it should be understood that this is not a mainstream Islamic practice. The vast majority of Muslims are tolerant of such artifacts and have as great a respect for them as anyone else. These singular acts of historical vandalism are presently unique to Islamic extremists who feel they represent a form of idolatry and superstition.

Second, the destruction of such artifacts is nothing new. History has shows that many cultures, even from ancient times, have destroyed precious artifacts belonging to their opposition. In ancient times, the burning of temples and the destruction of statues were ways of showing that false gods had no power to defend their shrines, nor their people. It was a way of bringing people into submission.

In the 6th century, Pope Gregory ordered the destruction of many ancient Greek and Roman statues, which is why today those that survive are missing arms and other features.

It was Christians who burned the Great Library at Alexandria and murdered Hypatia in 415 A.D., one of the greatest mathematicians the world has known, and also a woman.

During the Protestant Reformation protestants systematically destroyed many Catholic artifacts, whitewashing famous murals on cathedral walls, among other things.

None of these practices are unique to Islam.

Many are unaware that the same Islamists have also destroyed cultural sites associated with the Prophet Muhammad, fearing that people would become more devoted to the memory of Muhammad than Allah.

This is part of the motivation. Strictly interpreting Koranic verses to condemn idols of any kind, Islamic fundamentalists seek to cleanse the world of idols. Added to this is the desire to impose Islam on others, by whatever means necessary.

While this is not a mainstream movement, it is understandable in a religious context.

However, the cultural cost of their depredations is so great that it cannot be measured in dollars. If given the opportunity, these extremists would destroy the pyramids of Egypt, and every other cultural site that offends a cleric in some way.

Perhaps this is as good a reason as any to resist their efforts to exert control over wider swaths of people and territory.

Few Christians today would endorse the actions of Pope Gregory, or of those who burned the Great Library of Alexandria and murdered Hypatia. One would be hard pressed to find the Christian who agrees with the crusader's sack of Jerusalem in the First Crusade, or the whitewashing of priceless Catholic artworks during the reformation.

If Islamists wish to follow their fundamentalist beliefs in the security of their desert kingdoms, who are we to tell them they cannot? However, when they leave these enclaves and attempt to impose their beliefs by force, destroying the world's cultural heritage in the process, we have a duty to our ancestors and their legacy to say no.

The world should do all it can to ensure that Timbuktu is the last act of destruction on the part of such people, no matter what their religious beliefs may be. Such a crime is a crime against all humanity and it cries for prosecution.


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