by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author’s program note. In March, 2001 the civilized world awoke to the incomprehensible spectacle of Taliban zealots waging war against “un-Islamic graven images” in Afghanistan. “Idolatrous” Buddhist images of humans and animals were the enemy, as supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammmed Omar ordered explosives, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons to blow up two colossal images of the Buddha, revered monuments about 120 miles from Kabul, soon reduced to shards of history; for centuries important things now destroyed at the fiat of one man determined to eradicate every belief he did not share, every monument he did not approve.
Now the action has moved to Mali, a far-away West African nation you never heard of before but which may well be Ground Zero for the next bout of global terrorism and enforced ideological purity. Pay attention… the perpetrators of these outrages are deadly serious, armed and dangerous… and they are at their sanctified work right now…
There are certain things you must know about Mali and the Malians. They were once, before the Europeans came, a great people, an imperial people, a people of stability, riches, culture and leisure. The recollections of these glorious days (ending in 1591 with the fall of the Songhai) haunt them; they were once great, they muse. Why can’t they be great again? But to this common question, different people offer different visions. Some offer the alternative of Western multi-party democracy, with (because they are a former French colony) Paris always their example and hope. Here there is tolerance, enlightenment, the full panoply of rights won in the iconic Revolutions of the United States and France.
Others offer a religious solution, a place where there is only one way of thinking, the religious way and specifically the way of Sharia; the way that enforces the strict moral code and religious law of Islam. Sharia deals with many of the same topics as addressed by secular law, including crime, politics, and economics, as well as personal matters such as sexual relations, hygiene, diet, prayer and fasting. Although interpretations vary between cultures, in its strictest form it is considered the infallible law of God — as opposed to the human interpretation of the laws…
… and this is the problem. For in Mali, these people, who fight under the fierce certainties of Ansar Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”) are now in control of a vast territory. Here they impose their inflexible dogmas…. and from here (it is now conjectured) they plan to take their righteous vision to other places, places now graced by tolerance, diversity, acceptance, and empathy, the very things abhorrent to Ansar Dine, the things they are determined to root out, destroy, and so purge the people and their lives of Sin. In their dreams, the Wahabi dreams, you and I, friend, are the servants of the very incarnation of evil and our very existence the abomination they mean to eradicate.
Wanton outrage in the ancient city of Timbuktu.
Have you heard of Timbuktu? Of course you have. It is one of the most evocative places on Earth; a place as famous as Atlantis or Troy. It is a place you want to visit, for in the very word itself there is a magic which cannot be denied. It’s a magic that was admirably caught in the song “The Night of My Nights” from the Broadway musical “Kismet” (1953). Go to any search engine and find this song. Close your eyes and see the great city of Timbuktu as it once was in all its grandeur…
… “Play on the cymbal, the timbal, the lyre; Play with appropriate passion. Fashion songs of delight and delicious desire for the night of my nights.”
This is how the people of Timbuktu see their city… and how they want you to see it, too… stately… magnificent… the very essence of splendor and sensuality. It is a vision to which they stubbornly adhere, the more so given their penurious present. It is a vision Ansar Dine means to obliterate, thus purifying the people… whilst leaving them even poorer and more vulnerable than they are now. And since they are amongst the very poorest people on earth, that would be poor and vulnerable indeed.
“Allah Akbar”, God is the Greatest.
Remember, the city of Timbuktu was once great in the good things of life. It was a place of architectural adornments and intellectual achievements, part of the Islamic Golden Age, where the great cities of the Moslem world gave of their riches to the as yet undeveloped peoples of Europe, peoples who were uplifted by the condescension of the princes of Africa, Arabia and the East and beholden to them.
When the great empire fell, many of its artifacts remained including thousands of documents, among them writings about astronomy, the health effects of tobacco, and 3,000 year old medical advice. In fact, over 300,000 historical Islamic texts, some dating back to the 13th century, still remain in the shrines of Timbuktu… dazzling things of the utmost importance… now amongst the designated targets for Ansar Dine, a handful of men profaning God by claiming to destroy in His Holy Name.
Starting just a few days ago, anything not approved by Ansar Dine became not an object to be venerated, admired, and preserved but a thing of opprobrium, marked for immediate extinction. “The destruction is a divine order,” said an unidentified Ansar Dine spokesman. “It’s our prophet who said that each time that someone builds something on top of a grave, it needs to be pulled back to the ground. We need to do this so that future generations don’t get confused, and start venerating the saints as if they are God.” Thus, on this basis one sacred tomb after another, including that of Sidi Mahmoudou who died in 955, was destroyed by men wielding pick axes and shouting God’s praise. At least five others were similarly desecrated.
Having wrecked havoc among the venerated relics of Islamic saints, these men then attacked the famous15th century Sidi Yahya mosque. According to legend, its gate leading to the attached cemetery would open only on the final day at the end of time. The self-proclaimed children of God made its destruction a priority for their outrage.
Now the vast intellectual riches of Timbuktu, all at risk, face their fate… with complete and total destruction possible, even probable. If so, it will rank as one of the signal outrages of history, all done in the name of God.
Some help at hand, but is it too little, too late?
Fortunately this time, unlike what happened to the great Buddha of Afghanistan, some authorities are already at work to limit the damage and protect the vulnerable riches which remain. The International Criminal Court has described the destruction of the city’s patrimony as a possible war crime. UNESCO’s Committee on World Heritage condemned the perpetrators and asked for world action again them. Will these actions be enough to warn off the culprits… or will we see more videos online with evidences of the sickening destruction we expect and which may well touch our lives adversely if Ansar Dine, with so much territory already under its control, escalates its work from dead saints to living humans with abhorrent views?
Who can stop it? Africa can. And thus it is time for Africa to join the civilized nations and show its vehement and unrelenting outrage… and bring them to bear against the marauders who have done so much evil already and are admirably positioned to do still more.
Thus, I give you a rousing tune by Malian master Toumani Diabate. It’s called “Africa Challenge,” and well it might be… for this is a moment for Africa to rise to the occasion and save what still remains of its heritage… including storied Timbuktu, naked and awaiting your verdict. You’ll find its sensual rhythms as part of his Symmetric Orchestra. Find it now in any search engine… Africa never needed to hear it more or act faster.
About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today at http://www.Worldprofit.com
Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.