A fringe of the Ummah “World Muslim Community” is occupying the centre stage these days. The new defenders of the Islamic Faith, the Ansar Dine in Mali and in South Yemen and the Boko Haram in Nigeria are competing to stand on the highest ground. After destroying the 6th century 2,500 metre high Bamiyan twin Buddha statues in 2001, targeting the Lahore’s legendary Data Ganj Bakhsh shrine, they are torching churches in Nigeria and murdering “infidels”, and raising to the ground mausoleums and masjids which are on the endangered list of Human heritage of UNESCO, in Timbuktu. This crime has been rendered easy by the absence of a Government in Mali and consequently a total breakdown of law and order.
Timbuktu, a city famous for its 333 Saints, is a treasure trove of Islamic manuscripts and Architecture. It has been a point of encounter before colonial times, for Africans, Arabs and Europeans for over a millennium where the “camel met the canoe” and where, through silent barter, gold was exchanged for salt.
This wanton destruction baffles many people. Let me explain [but not justify]: There is no agreement among Muslims over the issue of Saints, tombs and graves. Those active in Mali believe that all iconography and idolatry practices are HARAM [forbidden]. Since those mausoleums have become places of worship with visitors praying and prostrating before the grave and seeking the particular saint’s intercession with God, visits to shrines are considered SHIRK [association of a deity to the ONE GOD].They say Islam is a very simple and democratic faith, and does not allow go-betweens and their intercession. This is why, they add, Islam doesn’t have a clergy. No one comes between man and his Creator.  This explains also why Arab “liberators” in Bosnia and Kossova were leveling to the ground Ottoman shrines to bar people from prostrating before graves of “Walis” [saints].
Whither the Islamic belief that differences of opinions were a blessing?  Who is realizing that all the combined efforts of the “enemies” of Islam is causing lesser damage on Islam’s image than the destruction caused by Islam’s own misguided zealots. Setting up an armed vigilante at Timbuktu, condemnation by Muslim Governments and the Organisation of the Islamic conference are of no avail against selfish gangsters in a lawless land. The whole Ummah must stand up and speak against the desecration of Tombs of holy men who have spent their lives in the service of humanity. Sanity will have to speak or else we’ll be listening to insanity only.