Islamists Destroy Timbuktu, Eye Pyramids of Giza

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 19:20 PM EDT, 11 July 2012

Sphinx & Pyramid of Giza, Photo by English 1050 InstructorUnfortunately, radical Islamist behaving badly has dominated the news this week. This coupled with a dearth of response from moderate Muslims who should vociferously denounce these fringe groups that have hijacked their religion, has provided fertile ground for anger, mistrust, and xenophobia.

Today, news outlets reported the horrific possibility that Egypt’s greatest historical treasure and defining landmark is under threat of destruction. Prominent, radical Muslim clerics are demanding the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi push Egypt toward theocratic governance. As proof of his compliance the clerics are demanding that he impose Islamic law in Egypt just like the newly formed northern Sudan government did.

It is perhaps fortunate that President Morsi is making his first foreign trip today to Saudi Arabia, and thus has been spared the ordeal of addressing these ludicrous demands. The radicalization of his government could play directly into the hands of the military who recently dissolved parliament and would use this or any other opportunity to reassert their dominance.

At issue today is the call by top, radical, Muslim clerics for Morsi to demonstrate his fealty by instituting a program to destroy the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - namely, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Sphinx, and all others symbols and representations that they deem pagan and ‘idolatrous.’

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have all been destroyed. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria were all believed to have been destroyed by earthquakes. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus as well as the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus were destroyed during war. Only the Great Pyramids of Giza remains.

The call for the destruction of these significant, historical antiquities by marauding conquerors is not new, but what is disturbing is that in this instance Egyptian are seeking to destroy their national heritage. The fact that these demands were made is a clear sign of the diminished capacity of moderate Muslims to keep the radical fringe in check, which in turn provides ammunition to those who seek to engage in an apocalyptic end of day’s battle between the West and Islam.

Though the destruction of the Pyramids of Giza is unfathomable, the necessary technology can be procured easily by radical Islamist. If they are successful in convincing the Morsi government to destroy the pyramids, there is little that any other nation could do to stop this unconscionable act.

On 9 June 2012, in Mali, Ansar Dine Islamist militia which has ties to Al-Qaeda and fought with the Tuareg to capture the key towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, have begun to impose Sharia law on the populace in the region with the hope of eventually instituted this as the rule of law for the nation.

The Tuareg who are more moderate but fought with Ansar Dine against the military forces of the deposed Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré, have broken ties with the group because they do not ascribe to their strict interpretation of the Quran. Unfortunately, they have unwittingly delivered control of the region into the hands of what some have reported is an organization comprised of criminals and drug lords.

According to reports Ansar Dine Islamists routinely engage in pillaging, rape, and theft in the areas they have conquered. They have also actively desecrated a number of centuries-old mausoleums of Muslim holy men in Timbuktu. The tombs are located at the great Djinguereber mosque, and this sacrilegious act perpetrated under the guise of piety is nothing short of hypocrisy.

In March 2001, Taliban fighters used explosives to blow up the famed 6th century giant statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, and in both instances the extremists’ leaders, Mullah Mohammed Omar in Afghanistan, and a spokesman for Ansar Dine lauded the destruction of these irreplaceable monuments.

“Muslims should be proud of smashing idols. It has given praise to God that we have destroyed them.”

There is no better time in history for moderate Muslims to take a stand and let their voices be heard. As Edmund Burke said, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

Thus, it is imperative that every voice of moderation speak out or risk being tarred by the same brush used by generalists to justify racism, hate crimes, xenophobia, and distrust of not only Muslims, but of all people who do not conform to ‘their’ perception of the world.

As George Santayana stated, “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” If we do not stand against this wanton destruction and radical extremism by deploying every means possible, we will surely find ourselves locked in another world war. This time, not with Fascist or Nazis, but with unpredictable, undisciplined, uneducated, radical Islamist; and in the end the collateral damage of this type of engagement will leave no country unscathed.

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Tuareg Rebels Eye Azawad Secession

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:23 PM EDT, 2 April 2012

Tuareg with Sword, Niger, Photo by Swiatoslaw WojkowiakAZAWAD, Mali - The stability of Mali continues to be a grave issue for its citizens and neighboring countries.  West African leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization comprised of 15 countries, have brought to bear the strictest economic sanctions available to them against the Malian military usurpers.

Alassane Ouattara, the President of Ivory Coast and Chairman of ECOWAS, stated on Monday at the summit being held in Dakar, that a complete embargo against diplomatic relations, trade and freezing access to the country's bank accounts, would go into effect immediately.

The desired outcome is the restoration of constitutional order, as was promised in a televised announcement by Lt. Amadou Konare following last month’s coup which ousted former President Amadou Touré. Ironically, the military’s overthrow of Touré was in response to his government’s perceived ineffectiveness in handling the latest Tuareg uprising, but they have yet to subdue the rebels or quell the conflict.

In fact, the Tuareg remain steadfast in their determination to succeed from country. According to Akli Souleymane, a senior official at the Azawad separatist movement, they will not cease this revolution until they have achieved this objective. They do not recognize the current military coup orchestrators, and reject all negotiations with them as they did with the Touré government.

Unlike previous uprisings in which the Tuareg were ill-equipped and untrained, the mercenaries returning from Libya have significant insurgency experience. Fierce warriors, the Tuareg appear unafraid to die, which is an attribute that has kept their culture alive despite high infant mortality rates, and lack of access to potable water or education.

“Estimates of the number of returning Tuareg fighters range between 800 and 4,000. On their return to Mali, many stopped short of Kidal in the mountainous region around Ti-n-Asselak in the Abeibara district where they linked up with the fighters of former rebel leader Ibrahim ag Bahanga's (who died in August 2011) Mouvement Touareg du Nord Mali (MTNM). On October 16, these and various other groups merged to form the Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad (MNLA).” (Source: Aljazeera)

Prior to 2011, the Tuareg have initiated four rebellions to establish the Azawad territory as a separate country. Azawad is the Tuareg name for the region north of Timbuktu that today covers the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. They have launched several attempts to secede from Mali which led to wars which lasted from 1916-1917, 1962-64, 1990-95, and 2007-2009.

It is estimated that there are roughly 5.7MTuareg living in the Sahara Desert region. Also, known as the Sahel, the majority of Tuareg, about 1.4M live in Mali, while the remaining occupy areas of Libya, Mauritania, northern Niger, southern Algeria, Chad, Burkino Faso, and parts of Nigeria.

According to the website North Africa United, the Tuareg culture is nomadic and up until the 20th Century, they lived an existence as traders following ancient caravan routes which they annually traveled from Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean.

“The Tuareg came to control the Sahara caravan trade routes from the great centres of Sub-Saharan Africa to the north and the Mediterranean. They provided protection and also supervised the slave trade from West Africa. This continued till well into the mid-20th Century.

'Tuareg’ is an arabic term meaning abandoned by God and they call themselves themselves ‘Imohag’ which translates as Free Men. They are an ancient warrior race and their language is Tamashek, their writing script is Tifinagh which is said to have come from ancient Libya. As road and rail infrastructure took over, the Tuareg have largely abandoned their previous nomadic existence and have settled but have never had their own homeland.”

In prior conflicts the Malian government was successful in its efforts to subdue Tuareg rebellions by attacking civilians using some of the most atrocious tactics witnessed in many ethnic cleansing conflicts across the globe. In order to protect their vulnerable populations, the rebels ultimately surrendered and laid down their arms.

However, military gains by the rebels, especially the capture of Kidal and Gao in recent days, and yesterday’s capture of Timbuktu, have embolden the MNLA, giving them the confidence they need to push to the mark and finally achieve their separatist goal.

Since Tessalit fell to the MNLA several weeks ago, the Malian army, already dispirited and ill-equipped, may no longer be in a position to maintain control of the Azawad region. In a territory this vast, it was difficult to police with a democratically elected government. The interim military government has more pressing issues at hand, and may choose to abdicate control of Azawad in the face of increased desertions and MNLA gains.

It shall remain to be seen what the outcome of this confluence of events shall yield, but it certainly looks like Mali, much like Sudan before it, could be headed toward an unwilling succession.

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A Coup for a Coup | Amadou Toumani Touré

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 12:49 PM EDT, 22 March 2012

Former President AmadouToure

Former President AmadouToure

BAMAKO, Mali - President Amadou Toumani Touré has been deposed following a coup d'etat by soldiers who are members of the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR). In the video below, Lt. Amadou Konare spoke in French to deliver news of the success of their overthrow of the government.

"The CNRDR ... has decided to assume its responsibilities by putting an end to the incompetent regime which has failed to protect our people.”

The military usurpers have dissolved institutions, suspended the constitution and imposed a curfew "until further notice". Captain Amadou Sanogo,who has been appointed as the president of the newly formed CNRDR, appeared on state television to urge calm and condemn any pillaging.

As with most African countries where the government is ousted by a military coup, these types of transitions are pivotal and most often lead to brutal regimes that refuse to relinquish power even after they have achieved their stated goals.

In fact, former President Amadou Touré, 64, also came to power through a coup. In 1991, he overthrew a military ruler, Moussa Traoré, and then handed power to civilian authorities the next year. He won the presidential elections in 2002, with a broad coalition of support, and was easily re-elected in 2007. (Source: Wikipedia)

As the military launched its final assault on the presidential palace in the capital of Bamako, the report of heavy gun fire pierced the early morning air. Although Touré had previously escaped into hiding, his Defense Minister wasn’t as lucky. Both he and the Foreign Minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, are being held by the soldiers.

International condemnation of the coup has been swift. France suspended its cooperation in assisting its former colony with its transition to a more democratic rule, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has stated publicly that they do not condone the actions of these soldiers.

In a statement issued by the White House on Thursday, the US called for the "immediate restoration" of constitutional rule in Mali, while the African Union condemned the actions of the soldiers.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN's secretary-general, called for calm and for grievances to be settled democratically in a statement released hours before the soldiers said they had seized power.

Jean Ping, head of the Commission of the African Union continental grouping, said he was "deeply concerned by the reprehensible acts currently being perpetrated by some elements of the Malian army". (Source: Aljazeera)

Mali, the largest country in West Africa, is heavily Islamic; where approximately 90 percent of its population are adherents of Islam. Of these, the majority of Malians are Sunni, while a small population of Christians resides in the country with relative freedom from persecution. Islam was first introduced to Mali by Muslim Berber and Tuareg merchants traveling south into Sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the grievances of the CNRDR and a stated reason for toppling Touré’s government, was their perceived lack of government response to the returning Tuareg rebel fighters in the north of the country. The military felt that it had not been allocated sufficient weaponry to combat embattled and bitter Tuareg mercenaries who were returning to Mali from Libya.

Many of the Tuareg were ardent supporters of Muammar Gaddhafi, and when the Arab Spring movement swept through Libya, they went to the country to fight for the Gaddhafi regime. Once he was killed, those who were not captured and killed, returned to Mali disgruntled and unwelcomed.

Tuareg-led rebellions have killed numerous civilians and nearly 200,000 have had to flee their homes in advance of the marauding hordes. Mali, a country that has had several military regime changes and coups, has fostered an environment where rebels can easily foment unrest.

The growing instability after the initial steps toward a stable, democratic government has adjacent West African nations worried. If the Tuareg fighters are not contained, the fighting could spill over into neighboring countries like Algeria, as evidenced by the Tuareg's seizure earlier this month of the key garrison in the border town, Tessalit.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dSWdg5kTYHo]

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