Monday, July 23, 2012

Breaking Down Timbuktu

Nigerian author and art critic Teju Cole, who visited the Institute in February 2012, writes about the motivations of iconoclasts in history, and the destruction by Sunni extremists of Timbuktu's medieval Sufi Muslim shrines that have been decleared UNESCO World Heritage sites.

From the webzine, The New Inquiry:

"Iconoclasm is nominally about theology. Images which represent the wrong ideas must be expunged. But why be so furious about ideas? And, so, how are we to understand the ongoing destruction of Sufi shrines in the north of Mali? Ansar Dine, the rebel group that now controls Timbuktu, believes itself to be doing the will of God. The United Nations doesn’t matter, Ansar Dine has said, UNESCO is irrelevant, only God’s law matters. The locals are helpless, and horrified. Short of witnessing grievous bodily harm, few things are as astonishing as seeing the casual, physical destruction of what one holds sacred."