ISIS have called on the Muslim world to destroy Egypt’s iconic Sphinx and pyramids, saying “it is time for Muslims to erase the phaeaoh’s heritage”.
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Although the ancient monuments are not religious – but rather cultural and historic sites – they should still be “destroyed” by Muslims, putting an end to the worship of images, preacher Ibrahim Al Kandari said, according to Al-Watan daily.
Another call for the destruction of Egypt’s main symbols comes from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who suggested the demolition of the historic monuments is a “religious duty,” Al Alam news reported on Sunday. In the extreme interpretations of Islam, no material objects should be idolized or worshiped.
It comes amid growing concerns over the safety of many other historic and architectural monuments in the region, where militants continue to destroy ancient cities and artifacts.
Only last week, the Islamic State reportedly destroyed and looted the ancient Assyrian city of Dur Sharrukin in northern Iraq, demolished the remains of the ancient city of Hatra, and bulldozed the city of Nimrud near Mosul. The assault on the latter has already been compared by archaeologists to the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001.
In 2012, an Egyptian cleric also issued a fatwa calling to rid the country of its pyramids and the Sphinx. The member of the radical Salafi movement said he wanted the antiquities demolished, as Prophet Mohammed destroyed the idols in Mecca, and demanded Egypt’s tourism ministry be abolished, comparing the industry to “prostitution and debauchery.”
The religious ruling was denounced by Egypt’s officials and scholars, who claimed the site was part of the country’s cultural – not religious – heritage.
Attacks on the Sphinx date back centuries. Despite many legends surrounding the monument’s missing nose – with harm from Napoleon’s cannon being among the most popular myths – historians believe it was actually destroyed by Sufi Muslim Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr in the 14th century, after he learned that some peasants worshipped the Sphinx.