A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jihadi On Egyptian TV: Destroy the Pyramids and Sphinx

I try. I really do. When the media was reporting that the Egyptian Parliament was considering a law that might permit necrophilia, I debunked, I think, fairly effectively, I think. And when there were reports the Salafis were threatening to encase the pyramids in wax, I tried to talk people down by noting that President Morsi went to Karnak to reassure tourists. But I overlooked the fact that, no matter how I may try to persuade people that Islamists are not all, necessarily, out to destroy civilization,  there will always be, somewhere, someplace, sometime, some complete unmitigated lunatic who will go on TV and say something so utterly outrageous that all I can do is report it.

Murgan Salim al-Gohary is a complete raving absolute batshit-crazy f*cking lunatic self-described Jihadi and ally of the Taliban, who, as the Egypt Independent describes it:
Gohary, 50, is well-known in Egypt for his advocacy of violence. He was sentenced twice under former President Hosni Mubarak, one of the two sentences being life imprisonment. He subsequently fled Egypt to Afghanistan, where he was badly injured in the American invasion. In 2007, he traveled from Pakistan to Syria, which then handed him over to Egypt. After Mubarak's fall in early 2011, he was released from prison by a judicial ruling.
“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said.
Charming chap. He lists the Buddhas of Bamiyan on his resume. Can't UNESCO drop a SEAL team in and spirit him off to the International Criminal Court? (If UNESCO doesn't have special operations forces, can we propose some?) He did this on an Egyptian talk show and drew a comment from a former Founder of Tunisia's al-Nahda movement, Abdelfattah Mourou,  who was rather taken aback;
The vice president of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, called the station and told Gohary that famous military commander Amr ibn al-Aas [conaqueror of Egypt, companion of the Prophet Muhammad]  did not destroy statues when he conquered Egypt.  “So who are you to do it?” he wondered. “The Prophet destroyed the idols because people worshiped them, but the Sphinx and the Pyramids are not worshiped.”
Gohary responded that the conquerors lacked modern explosives technology.

Now, a lot of secular Egyptians actually love this sort of thing because it embarrasses the Muslim Brotherhood (and personally I don't mind them being embarrassed by their supposed fellow-Islamists), but Morsi has been careful to protect and defend the entire tourist industry, as his visit to Karnak showed. But he has not been quick to denounce the crazies spewing this kind of anti-cultural and anti-historical venom.

And while most Egyptians and most informed outsiders realize this guy is an outlier on the most outlying fringe, and he's not going to damage the pyramids without nuclear weapons, recent events in Timbuktu and at Sufi shrines across North Africa remind us that crazies can destroy heritage even if they don't have the power of the Taliban at Bamiyan,  And the sphinx has already lost its nose. (And maybe a couple of other things?)

As an Editor and Publisher I am as strong a free speech advocate as there can be, but this is not just "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater". this incitement to destroying a major part of the world's heritage. And what do you do with violent, inciting lunatics? Egypt seems to be following the US approach: "put them on TV talk shows." It may be time to rethink that.

For those of you who know Arabic, here's the original from Egypt's Dream TV2, though posted to YouTube by a Christian group:

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia lampooned the whole thing, and then when readers denounced her for calling attention to it, responded in defense. After all, story had been picked up by CNN, al-Arabiya, and many other international media. Zeinobia wasn't embarrassing Egypt before the world: Gohary had already done that.

Zeinobia did post a couple of cartoons worth reproducing here:

The sphinx has grown a beard and picked up some prayer beads in self defense:
And the sphinx expresses a (not very polite but utterly appropriate) response to the whole idea:

And since that is already a mite in bad taste, let me suggest that Mr. Gohary should perhaps not subscribe to the Facebook site Vuestra Experiencia in Egipto, which sent out this photo of a statue of Osiris today.  (Warning: Definitely Not Safe For Work. The statue is of an erect Osiris, and by that I do not mean it's simply not prone, if you get my meaning. [If you're familiar with the Isis/Osiris legend, I'm referring to the part that was eaten by the fish.] I suspect Mr. Gohary would not approve. Don't click if you are easily offended.)

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