Egypt Monuments Endangered by Muslim Ruling?

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2

In 2001 the Muslim Taliban regime in Afghanistan destroyed two giant Buddhas despite widespread international condemnation. The Taliban said the statues represented idol worship and were an offense to Islam.

The public attitude toward statues and pictures in Egypt has traditionally been far more relaxed.

More than a century ago a moderate Egyptian mufti named Mohammed Abdu issued a fatwa declaring that Islam does not forbid statues and pictures, as long as they are not worshipped.

There are thousands of ancient statues in museums and temples in Egypt as well as plenty of modern works in public squares in big cities.

"In the [last two centuries] many Muslim societies have wholeheartedly embraced the nationalistic representation of people through public sculpture," Elias said.

"There is no substantive tradition of representing religious personages [such as Muhammad] in statuary that I know of. But other figures, Muslim and otherwise, have been widely carved and forged [of metal]."

Attacks?

Some critics, however, say the latest ruling reflects rising religious fundamentalism in Egyptian society. They worry that Muslim extremists may be emboldened to attack monuments.

"We don't rule out that someone will enter the Karnak temple in Luxor or any other pharaonic temple and blow it up on the basis of the fatwa," Gamal al-Ghitani, editor of the Akhbar al-Adab literary magazine in Egypt, told the AFP news agency.

Other experts say there is no immediate danger of monuments like the Sphinx being destroyed by zealots.

"I do not feel that the Egyptian monuments are threatened by fundamentalism," said Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "The Egyptians love their heritage, and there has never been an incident of the destruction of monuments by" militant Islamists.

Gerhard Bowering is a professor of Islamic studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

"The first time I went to Egypt, I saw the picture of [then President] Nasser on the walls, the second time [then President] Sadat's, and the third time [current President] Mubarak's," Bowering said. "The latter hangs there today."

"Fatwas aim at today's target," he said, referring to President Hosni Mubarak, whose administration is at odds with fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Such fatwas "have little to do with the Sphinx. That creature will continue to grin at you," Bowering said.

Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.