Monday, April 03, 2006

Statues of Egypt

First if was the magnificent statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, obliterated by the Taliban- next it may be the extraordinary ancient statues of Egypt.

A fatwa issued by Egypt’s top religious authority, which forbids the display of statues has art-lovers fearing it, could be used by Islamic extremists as an excuse to destroy Egypt’s historical heritage.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country’s top Islamic jurist, issued the religious edict which declared as un-Islamic the exhibition of statues in homes, basing the decision on texts in the hadith (sayings of the prophet).

Which is really the sticking point here- this isn't something he's pulled out of his hat, it's based on his readings of the hadith.

Still, many fear the edict could prod Islamic fundamentalists to attack Egypt’s thousands of ancient and pharaonic statues on show at tourist sites across the country.

“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 literary Akhbar al-Adab magazine, told AFP.

Of course they have the example of the Taliban to follow- and Mohammed himself, who overturned the pagan statues at the Ka'ba

Gomaa had pointed to a passage from the hadith that stated: ”Sculptors would be tormented most on Judgment Day,” saying the text left no doubt that sculpting was “sinful” and using statues for decorating homes forbidden.

If this fatwa is to be refuted then obviously it needs to be done not of the basis of Western outrage at the threat to the treasures of ancient Egypt but by Muslims thermselves, with reference to the Koran and Hadith.

“Islam proscribed statues, as long as they symbolise living entities such as human beings and animals,” Qaradawi said on an Islamic website.

Islam proscribed all that leads to paganism or smells of it, statues of ancient Egyptians included,” he added.

The statues which have survived for thousands of years may be facing their greatest threat.

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