An Egyptian jihad leader, with self-professed links to the Taliban, called for the “destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Egypt,” drawing ties between the Egyptian relics and Buddha statues, local media reported this week.
Murgan Salem al-Gohary, an Islamist leader twice-sentenced under former President Hosni Mubarak for advocating violence, called on Muslims to remove such “idols.”
“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,” he said on Saturday during a television interview on an Egyptian private channel, widely watched by Egyptian and Arab audiences.
“God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”
His comments came a day after thousands of ultraconservative Islamists gathered in Tahrir Square to call for the strict application of Sharia law in the new constitution.
“The fundamental Salafis have demanded to cover Pharaonic statues, because they regard them to be idols,” Egyptian author on ancient history Ahmed Osman told Al Arabiya English, explaining that Salafi Muslims follow conservative religious principles which view statues and sculptures as prohibited in Islam.
“But so far the government has done nothing to indicate what is the future of Egyptian antiquities,” adds Osman.
And this from MEMRI:
It is easy to dismiss these nutcases as out of the mainstream and that few in Egypt will take them seriously. But the fact is that the entire mindframe of Egyptians has gone so far down the Islamist path that ideas like these are not considered out of bounds anymore.
Besides that, there is a fundamental problem with an Islamist state, which makes the idea of "moderate Islamist" a contradiction in terms. Very few people are using the Quran and traditional Islamic sources to support a moderate stance within Islamic law in a way that the extremists would respect. I don't know if Islam itself can support a moderate viewpoint within its own system - people like Robert Spencer argue pretty convincingly that it is impossible.
Which means that the only path to Islamic moderation is not from within, but from without - by pressure from other states, shaming Islamists into accepting a bare minimum of generally accepted standards of morality.
Egypt is ground zero for how the current Islamist spring will play out. Morsi has so far not been outspoken against his Salafist partners even when their stance goes beyond that of the Muslim Brotherhood. His reluctance to pick a fight while he is still figuring out how to lead the nation, but that in itself shows that he is at least as afraid of the extremists as everyone else.
This does not bode well for the future of Egypt, or of the Middle East.