Islamic Ruination of Ancient Religions' Sites
"It is with deep regret and great pain that I had to enter a guilty plea on all the charges brought against me. I would like them [the people of Timbuktu] to look at me like a son that has lost his way, and to accept my regrets."
"[I was] influenced by a group of deviant people from al-Qaeda and Ansar Dine. [I hope my punishment will] serve as a purging of the evil spirits I got involved with."
"I would like to give a piece of advice to all Muslims in the world not to get involved in the same acts I got involved with, because they will not lead to any good for humanity."
Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, former Ansar Dine/al-Qaeda member, Mali
"The courts have been slow to recognize this, but there is a clear link between crimes committed against people and attacks on their cultural heritage."
"The ethnic cleansers in the Balkans, like the jihadis in Iraq, Syria and Timbuktu and other places, are keenly aware of the significance of this, which is why they devote so much personnel and resources to the destruction of religious and cultural landmarks."
Andras Riedimayer, scholar of Islamic art and architecture, Harvard University, U.S.A.
The rubble left from an ancient mausoleum destroyed in Timbuktu [File: Joe Penney/Reuters]
Fanatical Islam empowers its believers to embark on a passage to serve Islam by destroying all vestiges of other religions' sacred objects. Just as Islamist jihad instructs the faithful of their duty to the Prophet to emulate him in his violent conquests of those unwilling to convert to Islam by taking it upon themselves to religiously follow in his conquering footsteps to wreak terror on the vulnerable, the prohibition in Islam against graven images requires that those of others be destroyed, since Islam is not consistent with tolerance of other religions and their symbols.
This man who stood before the International Criminal Court, pleading guilty of having led others to destroy shrines, damage mosques and burn sacred, irreplaceable manuscripts in their zeal to do their duty to Islam, spoke earlier this week of having been wrong to heed recruiters citing sacred passages of Islam to justify the spree of wreckage that was embarked upon. Only he can know how genuine his remorse is, or simply a manifestation of his admission of wrong-doing, leaving him in a difficult place. As a teacher who studied Islamic law in Libya, he is not the innocent he portrays himself to be.
Prosecutors have agreed to accept a reduced sentence to be imposed on this man in recognition of his admission of guilt. Which may point to the precise reason he was willing to admit guilt and remorse, knowing it would lighten his sentence. The maximum sentence possible for the crimes he and others committed with himself as a ring-leader amounts to 30 years' incarceration. By the simple enough expedient of presenting his admission of guilt, he effectively paved the way for a vastly reduced sentence.
The court's chief prosecutor stated it was al-Mahdi "who identified the sites to be destroyed and who provided the means" by which the carnage could be carried out, with pickaxes and crowbars in the "unleash[ing of] a destructive rage" ruining priceless monuments. There are other ways in which Muslims can embark on a mission to destroy the sacred sites of another group, ethnic and religious, by claiming those sites as their own. It is what Arab Muslims have embarked upon in claiming their own status in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, where history recounts the heritage of ancient Israel.
The Islamist penchant for destroying the sacred sites and objects in the Middle East and North Africa has resulted in the obliteration of sites of early civilizations existing long before the entrance of Islam on the world scene. The veneration of these places relates to their status of world heritage sites and as such important to all of humanity. But there is little new in all of this. Throughout the 1400 years of Islam's introduction to the world, it has destroyed churches, cathedrals, synagogues and temples of others, building mosques over their ruins.g
In Mali, particularly in and around ancient Timbuktu, jihadis still roam. A lawyer for the International Federation for Human Rights explained that lawsuits were filed for women and girls who had been raped, with many forced to 'marry' jihadis, while others, captured and used as sex slaves by the fighters suffered the fate of women of whom Islamic texts assure Muslim men that women of conquered areas are theirs to do with as they wish, taking their cue from the Prophet Mohammad.