Abu al-‘Alaa' al-Ma‘ari (AD 973-1058) is recognized as a great poet and philosopher of the classical age in Islam. He came from Ma‘arat al-Nu‘man in northwestern Syria. He was also known as a freethinker who criticized religious dogmatism and was critical of most religions, including Islam, a position he was able to maintain a thousand years ago and still live into his 80s.
At least some residents of Ma‘arat al-Nu‘man are apparently less tolerant today. The town, in Idlib province, is now held by Syrian rebels, presumably including some Islamists who were unhappy with the town's most famous son. Someone has beheaded the statue of al-Ma‘ari.Some are accusing Jabhat al-Nusra.
I don't really have any comment here, other than the man's work will survive and someday the town may again choose to commemorate him. Denying the past (or worse, punishing the long-dead?) is simply vandalism.