Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Are the Pyramids in Danger?
The Pyramids of Egypt are some of the most recognized monuments in the world. They are surrounded in mystery and have been the source of countless theories regarding their construction and purpose.
But are these iconic structures now in danger of being destroyed?
The Pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur are listed as a World Heritage site, but despite their historical significance and importance, some Islamic leaders are now calling for their destruction.
An Egyptian jihadist with self-professed connections to the terrorist Taliban is calling for the destruction of the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza. Appearing on Egyptian television, Murgan Salem al-Gohary has urged Muslims to "destroy the idols" referring to the pyramids, sphinx and other ancient structures.
He stressed during the interview, "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 further stated, "God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols, when I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”
Murgan Salem al-Gohary is referring to the destruction of two thousand year old Buddhist statues in Afghanistan in 2001 when the Taliban were in control of the country.
It was only after the fall of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 that al-Gohary was released from prison. Since then, he has, along with other conservative Islamists, been a proponent of the strict application of Sharia law in the country's new constitution.
Other radicals have also called for the destruction of Egypt's monuments. The "Sheikh of Sunni Sheikhs" Abd al-latif al-Mahmoud has urged Egypt's new president, Muhammad Morsi, to "destroy the Pyramids".
While some radicals call for the destruction of what they call "symbols of paganism" many Muslims have a more reasonable view. They point out that the Sphinx and the pyramids are not worshiped as idols. The ultra-conservative Salafi Muslims however, hold a more extreme view. The Salafi Muslims follow conservative principles and they view all statues and sculptures as objects prohibited by Islam. Recent parliamentary elections in Egypt have seen the Salafis gain more political power in the country.
It's hard for westerners to conceive of the idea of tearing down the pyramids, but time will tell how the current Egyptian government will deal with the political pressure to do so. Most people hope that the new president, Mohammed Mursi, will help preserve the monuments and cultural heritage of the country.
The Egyptian government has recently announced that it will reveal more of its ancient treasures including the tomb of Queen Meresankh III, the granddaughter of Khufu as well as the underground Serapeum temple at Sakkara.