(Reuters) - Islamist militants destroyed two tombs on Tuesday at the famous 14th century Djingareyber mosque in Timbuktu, classified by UNESCO as a world heritage site, residents said.
About a dozen militants arrived in an armored four-wheel drive truck, armed with pickaxes and hoes. They fired in the air to intimidate people and started smashing the tombs, said Ibrahim Cisse, who witnessed the scene.
"They blocked the two main roads leading to the mausoleums. When they saw people gathering for a ceremony nearby, they began firing shots in the air," said another resident, Mahamad ould Ibrahim.
The new destruction comes after attacks last week on other historic and religious landmarks in Timbuktu that UNESCO called "wanton destruction".
Islamists of the Ansar Dine group say the centuries-old shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam are idolatrous.
Ansar Dine and well-armed allies, including al Qaeda splinter group MUJWA, have hijacked a separatist uprising by local Tuareg MNLA rebels and now control two-thirds of Mali's desert north, territory that includes the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.
They have destroyed at least eight of 16 listed mausoleums in the city, together with a number of tombs and a sacred door at Sidi Yahya mosque, in their campaign to erase traces of what they regard as un-Islamic idolatry.
According to UNESCO, Djingareyber, together with the Sankore and Sidi Yahia mosques, are known as the three great mosques of the city. Djingareyber was built by the sultan Kankan Moussa after his return in 1325 from a pilgrimage to Mecca.
... the popes wantonly ruined more of ancient Rome than Goths or Saracens had ever managed.
Guidebook to Rome*
The true torchbearers during the Dark Ages were Arabs, Jews, heretics and pagans who kept alive pre-Christian teachings. In western Europe Christianity enforced a monopoly of thought, and the consequence of this was that Western Christendom spent the Middle Ages in abject ignorance, regarded by Byzantines and Muslims alike as hopeless philistines. Pope Paul II, a nepotist and murderer, epitomised Western Christianity at the end of the medieval period. When in 1466 the historian Bartolomeo Platina commented on his ignorance, His Holiness had him imprisoned and tortured. The same pope suppressed the Roman Academy, which he thought encouraged paganism, and also banned the reading of ancient poets by Roman children.
How great was Europe's cultural loss can be assessed by comparing the state of civilisation under the ancient Greeks with that of Christendom at the close of the Middle Ages, almost 2,000 years later. All of these areas of cultural endeavour had flourished under the Greeks — many of them are discussed in more detail elsewhere on this website.
|Area||Fate under Christian hegemony|
|Architecture:||Stone buildings that had been built extensively for private and public purposes were now limited to military and ecclesiastical structures. Existing public buildings (forums, libraries, odeons, theatres, museums (names after the Muses), stadia, hippodromes, circuses, schools, gymnasia, temples, baths, Roman amphitheatres etc.) were often vandalised or destroyed. Many building techniques were forgotten.|
|Education:||Where even the poor had been taught to read and write in pagan times, and the rich had been expected to build public schools, education became a Church monopoly, and was denied to all except prospective priests and sons of the rich. The syllabus was restricted to Christian indoctrination.|
|Dance:||Dance was prohibited as pagan and tending to promote lust.|
|Democracy:||Democracy was condemned as un-Christian, since the Bible presupposed kingdoms.|
|History:||Factual history was replaced by fabrications and propaganda (such as “legends”), except for sympathetic chronicles that did not reflect badly on the Church. Unsympathetic histories were "lost".|
|Law:||Law was converted from an instrument of justice to a system featuring trials by ordeal, frequently serving the interests of the Church and denying the principles of natural justice. Inequality was a fundamental principle of ecclesiastical law.|
|Literature:||All literature, including the Bible, was banned to the population at large. The few who were allowed to learn to read were restricted to prayer books and Christian Legends presented as fact. Other books were generally destroyed or hidden away in monasteries.|
|Mathematics:||This was limited within the Church to the arithmetic necessary to calculate the date of Easter. Otherwise it was treated with suspicion or hostility.|
|Medicine:||All medical progress was halted. Illness was considered to be a punishment for sin. Hygiene and public health were abandoned as un-Christian.|
|Music & Singing:||Music and singing were periodically restricted to Church music. Otherwise they were regarded as satanic. Classical opera died out under the Christian hegemony — it was re-introduced in the sixteenth century.|
|Natural history:||The study of nature, popular in the ancient world, stagnated until the Enlightenment. Research was suppressed until then because the Church insisted on a literal interpretation of the Bible and its infallibility as a handbook of all world knowledge.|
|Painting and Art:||All representation was first banned, then restricted to religious themes from the fifth century. Existing non-Christian art was destroyed. The rules of perspective, known in ancient times, were “lost” until rediscovered by Brualleschi at the dawn of the Renaissance. In 1563, the Council of Trent confirmed Art as a conformist naturalistic propaganda tool.|
|Philosophy:||A Church monopoly was established. The subject was then reduced to scholasticism. Existing philosophical works were destroyed. No significant progress (except by “heretics”) was to take place until Cosimo de" Medici revived ancient philosophy with his Platonic Academy in Florence*|
|Public Service:||The charitable endowment of public buildings (schools, libraries, theatres, sports stadia, baths, etc.) ceased almost completely when the Church enjoyed total control. Almost every village in Europe has a medieval church, generally built in better materials than any other local building. A vanishingly small number have comparable church built schools, hospitals or other useful public buildings. The first modern public library was founded by Cosimo de" Medici, “godfather” to the Renaissance*|
|Sculpture:||Non-religious sculpture ceased to be produced. The best examples from antiquity were "lost". Inferior material was produced for the Church, generally for propaganda purposes. Nothing comparable in quality to classical work was produced until the Enlightenment.|
|Sport:||Sports were suppressed, along with international sporting events. They were replaced by various kinds of animal torture and pastimes too local to be controlled by the Church.|
|Theatre:||Acting was banned, except for propaganda purposes: religious ceremonies, mystery plays and morality plays.|