Gambia: AU and the Destruction of Timbuktu

editorial

Militants who embrace the rigid Salafi brand of Islam are on a rampage in Timbuktu and other parts of Mali, an ancient, landlocked West African nation that was once the seat of a trading empire.

These religious fanatic, who are linked to Al Qaeda, have been destroying exquisite ancient tombs that are cultural icons of universal value. Women who used to walk freely now fear to leave their homes without veils. Schools, clinics, and banks have also been looted and burned.

It is pleasant to hear from President Jammeh that the AU has decided not to accept such a brand of Islam and would ensure that the barbaric conduct is stopped immediately.

We need not quote verses of the glorious Qur' an to ascertain that these al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters who have used pick-axes, shovels and hammers to shatter earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in Mali's fabled desert city of Timbuktu claiming to be defending the purity of their faith against idol worship are simply pulverizing part of the history of Islam in Africa, which includes a centuries-old message of tolerance.

International outrage has been swift. Unesco, which designates some of Timbuktu's mosques and tombs as World Heritage sites, has desperately urged an end to the campaign of destruction. UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon described such acts as "totally unjustified". The International Criminal Court's new chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, suggested they should be considered a war crime.

But aside the condemnations, we hope that the AU would act fast to ensure that this behaviour is stopped without further delay. For no one can understand what type of Islam they propagate, an Islam that preaches Sharia in the day and condones fornication and looting in the night, an Islam that promotes hatred and enormity etc. No, such a brand of Islam is nothing but terrorism and cannot be accepted as terrorism is not a jihad.

In fact, the attack on Timbuktu's cultural heritage is an attack against history and the values it carries -- values of tolerance, exchange and living together, which lie at the heart of Islam. It is an attack against the physical evidence that peace and dialogue is possible.

Time is running out, we cannot continue watching relics of African history reduced to rubbles by religious charlatans. As President Jammeh stated, the AU has to implement its principles at the right time. Africa and the world are watching, something in the interest of our culture and history needs to be done to save Mali.

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