TAG | Mali
Cross-posted on the Corner:
A number of people here have noted that yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Well, in Mali they were burning books.
The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Fleeing Islamist extremists torched a library containing historic manuscripts in Timbuktu, the mayor said Monday, as French and Malian forces closed in on Mali’s fabled desert city. Ousmane Halle said he heard about the burnings early Monday.
“It’s truly alarming that this has happened,” he told The Associated Press by telephone from Mali’s capital, Bamako, on Monday. “They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people.”
Heinrich Heine (1821):
…[D]ort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen (“Where they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people”).
Enter the Islamists.
The Guardian reports:
The pickup halted in Kidal, the far-flung Malian desert town that is home to members of the Grammy award-winning band Tinariwen. Seven AK47-toting militiamen got out and marched to the family home of a local musician. He wasn’t home, but the message delivered to his sister was chilling: “If you speak to him, tell him that if he ever shows his face in this town again, we’ll cut off all the fingers he uses to play his guitar with.”
The gang then removed guitars, amplifiers, speakers, microphones and a drum kit from the house, doused them with petrol, and set them ablaze. In northern Mali, religious war has been declared on music.
The savagery is shocking, as is the peculiarly grotesque vandalism of an ancient cultural heritage. But there is also crushing inhumanity of it, the merciless expression of an arid religious monomania with no room, it seems, for so many of the pleasures of this world. It’s not so much an assertion of the idea that there is no God but Allah, but the insistence that there is nothing but Allah…
Naturally, xenophobia is thrown into the mix:
An official decree banning all western music was issued on 22 August by a heavily bearded Islamist spokesman in the city of Gao. “We don’t want the music of Satan. Qur’anic verses must take its place. Sharia demands it,” the decree says.
No sympathy for the devil then.
The Guardian continues:
The ban comes in the context of a horrifically literal and gratuitous application of Sharia law in all aspects of daily life. Militiamen are cutting off the hands and feet of thieves or stoning adulterers. Smokers, alcohol drinkers and women who are not properly attired are being publicly whipped. As one well-known Touareg musician from Kidal says: “There’s a lack of joy. No one is dancing. There are no parties. Everybody’s under this kind of spell. It’s strange.”
Ansar adds: “People think that the problem is new. But the menace of al-Qaida started to have an effect on us in 2007. That’s when al-Qaida people started to appear in the desert. They came to the nomad camps near Essakane [the beautiful dunes to the west of Timbuktu where the Festival in the Desert used to be held] and at first they were pleasant and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’re Muslims like you.’ Then they began to say, ‘We have a common enemy, which is the west.’ That’s when I understood that things were going to get difficult.”
Read the whole—terrible—thing.
The New York Times reports:
DAKAR, Senegal — Radical Islamists who control northern Mali extended their campaign of enforcing harsh Shariah law on Monday, amputating the hands and feet of four young men they accused of robbery in the main square at Gao, a principal town in the region.
“We cut their right hand and their left foot, in the city of Gao, at the Place de l’Indépendance,” Aliou Mahamar Touré, a professed Islamic commissioner with Mujao, an offshoot of Al Qaeda that controls Gao, said in a telephone interview. “We cut all that today. It is not us who ordered this. It is God.”
…In Gao, the real jihadists took their four young victims to the town center at midday Monday, according to a municipal counselor who saw the amputations, Abderahmane Oumarou Maïga. They tied them to pillars, “feet at the top, heads at the bottom,” Mr. Maïga said, “solidly attached.”
For “each one, they cut off their hand and foot,” said Mr. Maïga, using what he called “giant scissors,” which had been specially fabricated, under duress, by a local blacksmith. “It was under threats that they did their dirty work,” Mr. Maïga said.
Remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan?
Well, here we go again…
Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs and pick-axes have destroyed the centuries-old mausoleums of saints in the Unesco-listed city of Timbuktu in front of shocked locals, witnesses say.
The attack by the al-Qaida-linked Ansar Dine group came days after Unesco placed Timbuktu on its list of heritage sites in danger and will recall the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two sixth-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.
“They are armed and have surrounded the sites with pick-up trucks. The population is just looking on helplessly,” said a local journalist, Yeya Tandina. Tandina and other witnesses said Ansar Dine had already destroyed the mausoleums of three local saints – Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi el-Mokhtar and Alfa Moya – and at least seven tombs.
“The mausoleum doesn’t exist any more and the cemetery is as bare as a soccer pitch,” a local teacher, Abdoulaye Boulahi, said of the Mahmoud burial place.
“There’s about 30 of them breaking everything up with pick-axes and hoes. They’ve put their Kalashnikovs down by their side. These are shocking scenes for the people in Timbuktu,” said Boulahi.
Ansar Dine backs strict sharia law, and considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous. Sufi shrines have also been attacked by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year. Locals said the attackers had threatened to destroy all of the 16 main mausoleum sites. The Unesco director general, Irina Bokova, called for an immediate halt. Late on Saturday, Tandina said Ansar Dine had halted the attacks. Attempts to contact members of the group were unsuccessful.
Ansar Dine has gained the upper hand over less-well-armed Tuareg-led separatists since the two joined forces to rout government troops and seize control in April of the northern two-thirds of the inland west African state…