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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Offensive to God ...

I read that centuries old monuments and structures in Timbuktu, now a World Heritage Site, are being destroyed by Islamic Fundamentalists. Apparently these monuments, many of them the Mausolea of early Islamic converts and rulers, are, according to the fundamentalists, "offensive to God."

The report reminded me of the wave of destruction unleashed across Europe by the fundamentalist Protestants. In England the "Iconoclasts" destroyed statues, defaced paintings and even tore down a few ancient churches - all in the belief that the statue, image, painting or the building "offended God." The trail of damage they did is visible to this day, many cathedrals fell to their demolition teams, the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity in Downpatrick being one. Carlisle's cathedral lost its Nave and Transepts to Cromwell's rampage and we are lucky the "Quire" survived at all. Elsewhere pricless windows were smashed, tombs torn open and the remains ejected and scattered and ancient churches turned into prisons, stables (Cromwell again) or partially demolished and "reordered" to prevent the re-institution of the saying of the Eucharist in them.

The Timbuktu vandalsim reminded me of the destruction in Afghanistan of centuries old Buddhist images around 20 years ago and reports of similar destruction in India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Could Islam be going through a phase of "reform" in which the extreme elements are surfacing and running with a new and, as with the Iconoclastic end of the Reformation, dangerous and destructive interpretation of their faith? I think this is very likely the case. The parallels between the determination these folk show to an agenda of forcibly converting others to their belief or eradicating them has some rather disturbing parallels with the manner in which Protestant and Roman Catholic elements approached each other (and, in some places, still do - at least verbally!).

The world is currently a very dangerous place, in terms of political and national instabilities. Again, there is a parallel with the situation in the 1500s in Europe, old Orders were collapsing, new ones springing up. In Africa, many of the current boundaries are very artificial and tribal tensions are being exacerbated by religious ones.

In the meantime we can only hope the local people can act to protect their heritage and repel the misguided fervour behind it.

1 comment:

  1. There has been a great deal of discussion bandied about in my neck of the woods (at home and with friends here) about this.

    Often, when the subject of Islam's more violent "escapades" of today arises, it is also met with similar and often more extreme actions by Christians of one denomination or another in centuries past.

    The counter argument, which I believe carries considerable weight, has to do with societal evolution; While the rest of the world was, for the most part, becoming relatively civilized due to international relations, immigration and trade, the Muslim world, specifically in the Mid-east, west Asia and parts of the South Pacific, remained closed societies, ruled by fundamentalists in most cases and kept in what, for want of a better term, might be called "The Dark Ages".

    As in the early days of the Catholic Church, when Latin was reserved for the priests so they alone could interpret the Bible (then only available in Latin), in many Muslim enclaves literacy as a whole is still suppressed so that only the imams can "interpret" the Koran for the "unwashed masses", which l;eaves them something of a blank check when it comes to telling the young exactly what Allah expects of them.

    Then there's the rather primitive way they've lived up until after we made the mistake of teaching them how to recover their oil which, by the look of things, led to their having the wherewithal to join the rest of the world, so to speak, then, thanks to their fundamentalists, "gravitate" to global jihad in one form and another.

    In short, I believe that the primary reason they're still doing what most extreme Christian factions ceased and desisted from long ago because of Islam's slowness on the uptake where modern rules of civility are concerned.

    I also believe that we have a long, difficult, tragedy fraught battle ahead of us as a result, before they are "encouraged" to join the modern world.

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