Murgan Salem al-Gohary, an Egyptian jihadist who claims to have links to the Taliban, has called for the “destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Egypt.”
Egyptian officials are taking the threat seriously and have begun taking all security measures necessary to protect the treasured 4,500-year-old landmarks.
Al-Gohary, an Islamist leader and jihadist sentenced twice under President Hosni Mubarak for advocating violence, urged Muslims to “destroy the idols” in Egypt – specifically the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphix – during a television interview on Saturday on Egypt’s Dream TV, according to Al Arabiya News.
“God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols,” he said, according to Al Arabiya News. “When I was with the Taliban, we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”
Adding, “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,” according to the Egypt Independent. The jihadist refers to when the Taliban blew up a pair of Buddha statues and smashed other art forms in Afghanistan in 2001, according to The Jerusalem Post. These were symbols of the country’s long Buddhist history.
The vice president of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, called into the station to challenge al-Gohary’s interpretation of Islam. Moro said the famous military commander Amr ibn al-Aas did not destroy statues when he conquered Egypt.
“So who are you to do it?” he asked. “The Prophet destroyed the idols because people worshiped them, but the Sphinx and the Pyramids are not worshipped.”
Al-Gohary’s call for the destruction of the pyramids came one day after the ultra-conservative Salafist party rallied in Tahir Square to call for Sharia law, according to the U.K.’s Independent. The Salafist party is the second most influential in the country, after the Muslim Brotherhood.
Salafis agree with al-Gohary’s view and have demanded Pharaonic statues be covered, according to the Independent.
An Egyptian Interior Ministry source said officials are taking al-Gohary’s call for destruction in Egypt seriously. They have “taken the necessary precautions to prevent violations of the law or any abuses of anything in the public domain or archaeological treasures including the pyramids,” according to a report by al-Masry al-Youm, an Egyptian paper, via The Jerusalem Post. Officials have “taken the necessary precautions to deal with any aggression” against the pyramids and Sphinx, as “[t]hey are a source of national income and they bring tourists to Egypt.”
Al-Gohary, 50, is well-known in Egypt for his advocacy of violence, Egypt Independent reported.
Islamists have swept the recent presidential and parliamentary elections in the country’s post-revolutionary stage, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Islamists rising to political power.
In recent months, fears have surfaced that the Salafi may soon wish to debate new guidelines over Egyptian antiquities.