UPDATE: It is being reported by Gulf News that the government of Morocco has released a statement asserting that the Muslim radicals did not destroy any rock carvings. In consideration of the fanatics’ past history, one finds it difficult to believe that someone simply made up this story. The jury remains out – we would love to see images of the carvings, now that the world’s attention is on them. The original story came from a “local rights group,” The Amazigh [Berber] League for Human Rights, and it is difficult to believe this NGO would falsify such a story, unless to draw attention to the jihadis in their lands?
Here is one reason I continually try to educate about the dangers of religious fanaticism, especially of the intolerant, monotheistic Abrahamic variety. This fanaticism has been destroying ancient cultures and their artifacts for over 2,500 years now, as found in the Old Testament and Christian history. This atrocity in Morocco is merely the latest incarnation – very distressing, especially for students and scholars of archaeology. To archaeologists, such destruction borders on blasphemy. One of my archaeologist friends says he is physically sickened by this sort of anti-humanity vandalism. The individuals involved in this blasphemous behavior should be charged with a crime against humanity in denigrating and destroying part of our shared ancestral heritage. For shame!
Note that these ancient artifacts had to do with sun worship/solar mythology, a massive part of humanity’s religious traditions dating back thousands of years. This astrotheological development occurred when human beings made observations of their natural world, including the sun, moon, planets, stars and constellations. The erasure of our past is like a virus eradicating the global computer files of humanity. It is utterly disgraceful and, again, blasphemous against our religion/philosophy. It must be stopped!
An 8,000-year-old rock engraving depicting the Sun as a divinity has been destroyed in the south of Morocco, local residents said, blaming Salafists seeking to impose their fundamentalist view of Islam.
Ahmed Assid, a prominent activist for the indigenous Amazigh people and member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), said the pagan rock engraving, known as a petroglyph — was destroyed this week in the Toubkal National Park.
“The information we have received from Amazigh activists in the area suggests Salafists were behind the act,” Assid told Reuters, noting however that he had yet to see pictures of the destroyed petroglyph.
“This act follows a noticeable rise in Salafist activities in predominantly-Amazigh regions of Morocco to enforce a puritanical interpretation of Islam,” he added.
He said, for example, Salafists were encouraging parents not to play traditional Amazigh music at their children’s weddings, giving them cash handouts to opt instead for Islamic religious chants.
“Their view is that aspects of Amazigh culture, including pre-Islamic heritage, still present today defeat the purpose of the Islamic conquests,” he added.
Morocco has generally followed a tolerant form of Sunni Islam, but Salafists rose to prominence after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, with hundreds jailed for 2003 bombings in the town of Casablanca.
After the popular uprisings which swept the Arab world last year – which Morocco mostly escaped – they have been expanding their influence across North Africa.
Meryem Demnati, of the Amazigh Freeedoms and Rights Watchdog, also confirmed the destruction of the petroglyph and added that residents in the area blamed Salafists.
Officials at the Moroccan culture ministry could not be reached for comment.
Amazigh, or Imazighen, lived in north Africa long before Muslims set foot in the land in the 7th century. While there are no official figures on their numbers, Morocco is widely believed to have the biggest Amazigh community in the world.
Assid said Moroccan authorities were partly to blame for failing to protect ancient artifacts and other Amazigh archaeological sites.
“Some 37,000 Amazigh petroglyphs like the one that was destroyed this week have been smuggled out of Morocco in the past 20 years,” said Assid.
In July, al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters used pick-axes, shovels and hammers to shatter earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in Mali’s fabled desert city of Timbuktu on the grounds they were defending the purity of their faith against idol worship.
(Reporting By Souhail Karam; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
The AFP article also discusses the artifact as having to do with sun worship:
Stone carvings in Morocco’s High Atlas mountains dating back more than 8,000 years and depicting the sun as a pagan divinity have been destroyed by Salafists, a local rights group said on Wednesday.
“These stone carvings of the sun are more than 8,000 years old. They were destroyed several days ago,” Aboubakr Anghir, a member of the Amazigh (Berber) League for Human Rights, told AFP.
“One of the carvings, called ‘the plaque of the sun,’ predates the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco,” Anghir said.
“It lies in a well-known archaeological site in the Yakour plain south of Marrakesh, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Mount Toubkal.”
“There are several Salafist groups active in the region and it’s not the first time these pre-Islamic sites have been attacked. We have sent a message to the ministry of culture, but have not yet received a reply,” he added.
Salafists, Muslims who adhere to a hardline Sunni interpretation of Islam similar to that practised in Saudi Arabia, which strictly prohibits “idolatry,” have enjoyed a surge in strength in Arab Spring countries, benefiting from wider freedom.
Late on Monday, one of Tunisia’s main Sufi mausoleums was burned down in an overnight arson attack, seemingly the latest in a spate of attacks on unorthodox Sufi shrines by the country’s increasingly assertive Salafists.
In northern Mali, which is close to Morocco, radical Islamists have destroyed ancient World Heritage shrines they consider idolatrous since seizing control of the region earlier this year.