The Corner

After Bamiyan

It’s too soon to forget the destruction by the Taliban of the ancient Buddhas at Bamiyan, a portent (as if we needed one) that this particular stream of Islamic extremism was set on ‘returning’ to Year Zero, or, more precisely, the early seventh century.

Now, there is this news from Egypt:

“A religiously motivated attack on statues at a museum in Cairo has sparked outcry in Egypt and fuelled fears that the country is veering towards an Islamic state. The attack on three artworks, by a black-clad and veiled woman screaming, “Infidels, infidels!” followed a fatwa issued by the Grand Mufti of Cairo, Ali Gomaa, which banned all decorative statues of living beings….Although the ancient treasures of Egypt have been protected under Islam so far, an increasing extremism in the country could make statues such as the quartzite head of Nefertiti, the colossus of Amenhotep, and the golden death mask of Tutankhamen possible targets in future. At the scene of the attack, in the villa and museum of the Egyptian sculptor, Hassan Heshmat, guards said they had been woken in the middle of the night by the woman’s shouts and the sounds of destruction. “It was a fully covered, religious woman,” said Raisa Intesar, who looks after both the museum and Mr Heshmat, who is now 86. “She had jumped over the wall. We rushed out to stop her but by the time we had overpowered her, she had destroyed three statues.” The damaged works included Motherhood, a piece featuring three delicately carved heads, all of which had been snapped off. Also damaged was a smaller piece, The Victory Leap, Heshmat’s tribute to Egyptian troops in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. But the patriotic sentiment of the work was lost on the attacker, who was intent on following a religious imperative. “She had been listening to the mufti, and was following his orders,” Ms Intesar said.”

Now, the destructive behavior of one woman should not be interpreted as meaning that revolution in Egypt is nigh, but her acts are a reminder in that in its purest form, extremist Islam leaves no room for nation, individual, free expression, or even, the ‘wrong’ sort of history (something, incidentally that should also bother those many Iranians who take pride in their own country’s pre-Islamic heritage).

The article has plenty more to say about the situation in Egypt, little of it encouraging. Read the whole thing.

Oh yes, Hosni Mubarak was born in 1928.

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