An Egyptian jihadi leader is calling for the destruction of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, that is, the Great Pyramids. Also on his target: the Great Sphinx. Those historical heritage sites are situated in Giza, just outside Cairo, Egypt’s capital.
The call was made Saturday night on a popular program on Egypt’s Dream TV by jihadist Murgan Salem al-Gohary who says he participated in the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001.
Egypt Independent reveals more about Gohary and his familiarity with the destruction of world heritage sites:
Gohary, 50, is well-known in Egypt for his advocacy of violence. He was sentenced twice under former President Hosni Mubarak, one of the two sentences being life imprisonment. He subsequently fled Egypt to Afghanistan, where he was badly injured in the American invasion. In 2007, he traveled from Pakistan to Syria, which then handed him over to Egypt. After Mubarak's fall in early 2011, he was released from prison by a judicial ruling.
“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said. […]
“God ordered Prophet Mohamed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”
The show also interviewed the vice president of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda Party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, who rejected the destruction call, emphasizing that the 7th century Arab commander who led the Muslim conquest of Egypt, Amr ibn al-Aas, did not destroy the statues during his military campaign.
“So who are you to do it?” Moro asked. “The Prophet destroyed the idols because people worshiped them, but the Sphinx and the Pyramids are not worshiped.”
In recent months, other hardline Muslim clerics have made similar calls to demolish those “symbols of paganism.” After the toppling of secular Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, now replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, concern has been voiced about the future of the ancient relics.
For religiously conservative Muslims, the erecting of statues and sculptures is considered prohibited. Al Arabiya spoke with Egyptian historian Ahmed Osman who explained: “The fundamental Salafis have demanded to cover Pharaonic statues, because they regard them to be idols.”
“But so far the government has done nothing to indicate what is the future of Egyptian antiquities,” he added.
The London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted an Egyptian Interior Ministry source on Monday who said that authorities are taking seriously the jihadi’s call to destroy the pyramids and sphinx, “particularly as he took part in demolishing a Buddha statue in Afghanistan 10 years ago.”
Tourism to the pyramids and other historical sites is one of Egypt’s top sources of income, providing much needed jobs in a country struggling with poverty and unemployment.
Over the summer, writer Raymond Ibrahim, an Arabic speaker who follows the Egyptian media closely, reported on the earlier calls by Muslim clerics to raze the pyramids. He also referenced an unusual call by a politician from the Salafi Nour Party to conceal the pyramids by covering them in wax.
Just on Friday, some 2,000 Salafists took to the streets of Cairo to demand that Egypt’s new constitution be based on sharia, that is, Islamic law. According to AFP, one sign read “the Koran is above the constitution.”