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Fatwas, Salafists, and Morsi: Desecrating Egypt’s Art and History

Written by Dr. Ashraf Ramelah

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The self-inflicted wounds of an Islamic state begin with words that impound the soul. Issue upon issue upon issue thickens the air and lays heavy on the human spirit suffocating potential. 250px-Afghanistan Statua di Budda 1The unpredictability of the fatwa, random and lunatic, holds the populace captive, shackling minds and hearts. This is the terror of state religion.

Often authored on the whim of a solitary, unknown sheik, absurd rulings stand firm and absolute with power to shape and control behavior. These societal taunts when placed on sheets of paper stack up skyscraper tall after centuries of pronouncements.

Generations of Egyptians have suffered impositions and cruel dictates by imams who mine their rough from the deep pits of narcissism and chisel out their next colorful gem for the subjects of Allah to obey. Better the grinding poverty under the pasha's rule of an earlier century than this modern network of Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, channeling the religious obliteration of freedom.

Convincing the world of their Goodness and superior contribution to humanity, Egyptian Islamists ask for F-16s and get them. And when Condoleezza Rice in Cairo a few years back suggested that just maybe our aid should be contingent on evidence of human rights, Egyptian President Mubarak knew then he would snuff the idea with his cloak of charm and deceit.

With the same purpose in mind, Morsi has now retracted almost every declaration he has made since becoming President -- backing down from his decisions at the least resistance from Copts and human rights advocates in order to demonstrate his democratic bent.

He compromised himself from the beginning and had to base his campaign on falsehoods to support a false premise – I am for democracy. Morsi is a puppet, plain and simple, attached to the Muslim Brotherhood "morshed" or spiritual leader who is principally responsible for his ascendancy to office. This is why Morsi made power grabs to begin with, maneuvers he then had to reverse to maintain the present charade.

The chaos of the day infected by overbearing religious authorities and the governing Muslim Brotherhood now antagonizes Egypt's citizenry into lashing out against Egypt's ancient and modern historical sites. Apparently stirred by religious intolerance against the pyramids in a fatwa calling for their destruction (issued by Salafi Al-Gohari in November 2012), one man was recently arrested for pounding a hammer into the head of the Sphinx.

He didn't act alone. Under Morsi, Muslim-owned TV channels announced a fatwa stating that the pyramids and sphinx are pagan idols and therefore must be demolished. By such instigation, petty aggressive acts are committed with the fervor of religious obedience and larger schemes are never out of the question – a license to run roughshod across the ancient land as if to challenge the spirit world of its dynasties entombed within.

His attempt is laughable until we remember the response to a similar dictate which eventually led to the explosions of the great Buddhas in Afghanistan after the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated mullah issued the fatwa to destroy them in 2005. Not only were the Buddhas ancient, erected in the sixth century BC, but annihilating them served as a catalyst to ravage all other statues in the country. (Coincidently, by divine order one year later, Egyptian Mufti Ali Gumah heard from Allah on this front and fashioned a fatwa prohibiting Egyptians from having statues in their homes. He later retracted it due to objections by the people and the media.)

Now this is occurring in Egypt where in fact two statues were vandalized this month in cities north and south of Cairo. Each memorial was an important modern figure from the era of King Farouk and rose to fame at a time when Islam's mark on Egypt was a constrained presence vying with the King's penchant for European culture.

One was the representation of Umm Kulthum, a legendary Egyptian singer known worldwide, erected in the city of Al-Mansura which one day suddenly donned a veil covering her face. Photos of the hijabed-statue subsequently distributed by Muslim Brotherhood members testified that after all these years Umm Kulthum's stone image had found religion.

In the city of Minya, the likeness of Taha Hussen, a former dean of Alexandria University and Professor of History as well as Greek and Roman Literature at Cairo University and later Minister of Education in 1950, was less fortunate but just as telling of the vandals. It suffered decapitation.

It is not characteristic of Islam to embrace or encourage individuals for contributing to society and erecting statues or memorials of any sort for their work or, frankly, to allow the work in the first place if it gets in the way of Allah. Upon the Egyptian coup of 1952 the King was replaced by a new Islamic era when there was little inclination by the state to recognize outstanding achievement for non-military contributions to the community, and this remains through the present time. So now the Islamic religious-state goes a step further to foster the expunging of icons by means of fatwas and the media.

If Egypt should lose a pyramid by explosion the world experts headed by UNESCO will surely embark on a huge reconstruction project as now in operation for the shrapnel-laden Buddhist carvings in Bamiyan Afghanistan. There, archeologists commit a type of revisionist history as they fit back the broken pieces and lose the piece most critical to the story: the detonated Buddhas as reminder that Muslim dogma demands intolerance toward all others. After 400 tons of rubble and eight years of sifting, there is still no cure for the ideological disease that caused the devastation.

The prospect of patching together a Great Pyramid of Giza is daunting and preposterous to think about. Claims by Egyptologists that ancient engineers employed unique methods to build the pyramids have led to a modern day attempt to replicate a pyramid utilizing the same strategy. But it failed. The enigma lies perhaps in the fact that life began here, and Egypt holds its great mysteries and protects its secrets. Now with the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood the prospect of death hovers over the ancient land ready to snatch from the world the greatness of its origins.

Interestingly, as Egyptians fail to respect, protect and preserve Egyptian antiquity within there own purview, Morsi's Antiquities Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, has now made demands to the French government to remove the 1875 Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi statue of Champollian, decipherer of Hierogliphics, from the Collège de France. The concern of Egyptian authorities this time is not that the artist's likeness offends Allah, but that the Champollion carving harms the image of the pharaohs – Islam's perfect way to distract world opinion away from Egypt's miserable stewardship of its art and culture

Dr. Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization working to free the persecuted Copts of Egypt. www.voiceofthecopts.org

 

 

 

 

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