Originally, I thought I’d go back and finish my original post on Mali and use the completed post to test out other blogging platforms, but I just don’t have the momentum at the moment. So I’m just going to throw down here, in no particular order, some of the other information that I meant to put in the original post.
In the New York Times‘ “Borderlines” article, they describe the city of “Timbuktu” as “fabled.” It had its heyday in the 13th through 17th centuries and became rich due to its location on an Arab trade route. The city is known for two things (perhaps others, but these are the two I know): Its library and its shrines. There was a wonderful article in Smithsonian about the efforts to save the medieval manuscripts that existed in Mali. It’s really a fascinating story and I high, highly recommend reading it. I also recommend reading it because it puts real people into what, for many of us, is a story about nameless forces.
The second thing Timbuktu in known for is its shrines to the saints. The city is sometimes called the “city of 333 saints.” Sufi Islam is not considered a “sect”, but it is tradition within Islam that emphasized the mystical aspect of the religion. Most Sufis are Sunni Muslims. Sufis have a tradition of revering individuals who have been important to the tradition and who are called saints. Shrines to saints have been built around their tombs. This is a controversial aspect of Sufism. Such shrines exist in other parts of the world but Timbuktu had many of them reflecting their own style of architecture which I presume is indigenous. I highly recommend that design geeks take a moment to look for some images of these buildings. The shrines in Timbuktu were classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rise of Islamism reflects not only the tensions between the Muslim world and the rest of the world, but a split within the Muslim world as well.
Salafism is a movement that began within Islam in the 18th century with Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab and is sometimes called “Wahhabism.” It is a fundamentalist version that seeks to return to the ways of the seventh century. There are divisions within Salafism, but the on that concerns us here is Jihadist Salafism. Just keep in mind that all Salafists do not advocate offensive Jihad.
As I mentioned in that first Mali post, the ethnic nationalist rebel movement which started the Tuareg rebellion was pushed aside by Islamist rebels. When they took the city of Timbuktu, they destroyed the library and the shrines. Although the manuscripts in the library were Islamic and so were the shrines, they are not approved of by the current wave of Islamist Jihadis. There is something especially chilling about the destruction of the library.
At The New York Review of Books, they highlighted earlier this week an old essay by one of my favorites, Gore Vidal. In it, he discusses all the books that were on the best seller list at the time. I considered trying a similar exercise, but a look at the current best sellers convinced me that it would be too painful – three shades of Fifty Shades of Gray and The Alchemist. What the hell is The Alchemist doing on the list? Was it made into a movie or something?
I came across an interesting video on The New York Times website about the life of people who have to register as sex offenders who have no place to live other than a small, isolated community. Most people who know me well, know that I do not take the matter of sexual assault lightly. However, I have not liked many of the laws requiring people to register as sex offenders. They seem to me to not have been well thought out as to the consequences. The video itself is a little troubling because it appears to want to make the men seem too harmless. For instance, one man refers to sex with an underage girl as “consensual”, indicating that he still doesn’t understand that the law regards minors as being unable to give consent. Would he, continue to prey on juveniles if he had access to them? It’s hard to say. Furthermore, the end of the video makes the statement that no sexual crimes have occurred in “Miracle Village.” Since most of the residents appear to be men who were found guilty of statutory rape and there are no underage people in the village, this outcome is unsurprising. However, it’s hard to see laws that do not allow for rehabilitation, and eventual reintegration into society, as being just.
A story in The New Republic, tells about how, when some Islamists took over Timbuktu and burned shrines and the library, a group of librarians saved the books from the Ahmed Baba Institute, a bright moment in an otherwise depressing incident.
From Maryam Nazmazie:
Since 22 year old Imad Iddine Habib founded the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco (the first public atheist organisation in a country with Islam as the state religion), he has received numerous threats.
Morocco’s High Council of Ulemas (the highest government religious institution headed by the King) issued a fatwa decreeing the death penalty for Moroccans who leave Islam. Currently, under Morocco’s penal code, those who “impede or prevent worship” face imprisonment and fines.
The threats continue to escalate. Recently, Imad’s father has been interrogated by the secret service. He was told to tell Imad to stop his activities and that this would be the “last warning before they react”. Imad’s registered address has also been raided by security forces.
There is also a page in support of Imad at the website of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain where you can add your name in support. There will be a day of solidarity with Imad on May 15th.