Destroying the Sacred Sites of Others

Destruction of Otherness

I remember when the Taliban were destroying Buddhist holy sites in Afghanistan. It was over 11 years ago (I had to look up the date). Now we have this report (excerpt below) of an Al-Qaida offshoot group destroying Sufi holy sites in Africa.

What is the significance of this kind of destruction? What does it mean?

In some circles, a popular theory is that Islam is, by its very nature, a particularly violent religion– and that Muslims are, ipso facto,  particularly prone toward violent behavior. This is unhelpful analysis, because it is based on a caricature of Islam, and on a cherry-picked selection of historical and contemporary events to count as evidence. It is also dangerous analysis, because it attempts to deny the destructive impulse that lies here– close to home– by placing that impulse in the only place where we can tolerate it– which is out there, with those foreigners and their barbaric ways. This is dangerous because such thinking creates the conditions by which we can avoid taking responsibility for our own destructiveness.

The meaning of this kind of destruction does not lie in its apparently “religious” motivation. That’s superficial, and fails to account for something deeper than religion: the dark human heart. In any account of what is happening in our world today, fear has to be factored into that account. Fear is a life- and other- denying power that is incapable of entertaining difference and diversity; fear is a wedge that separates us from hope, possibility, and creativity. Fear is a powerful motivator, and fear is thriving– not just over there, but here too.

BAMAKO, Mali — Despite international condemnation, the radical Islamic faction controlling the northern Malian outpost of Timbuktu continued destroying the city’s ancient tombs on Monday, laying waste to the city’s five-hundred-year-old heritage.The destruction began on Saturday, after the al-Qaida-linked faction Ansar Dine secured its hold on the three main towns in northern Mali, including Timbuktu. They descended on the tombs of the city’s Sufi saints with axes and shovels, as well as automatic weapons, saying that they were idolatrous. Their destruction spree continued through Monday.

via Al-Qaida Linked Islamists Destroying Timbuktu Sacred Sites Heritage.

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