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Scholars are also fretting about the fate of tens of thousands of ancient

and brittle manuscripts, some from the 13th century, housed in libraries

and private collections in Timbuktu. Academics say these prove Africa

had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.

 

 

Timbuktu Tomb Destroyers Pulverize Islam's history

By  Pascal Fletcher  

 

3 July  2012

(Reuters)—The al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters who have used pick-axes, shovels and hammers to shatter earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in Mali's fabled desert city of Timbuktu say they are defending the purity of their faith against idol worship. But historians say their campaign of destruction in the UNESCO-listed city is pulverizing part of the history of Islam in Africa, which includes a centuries-old message of tolerance.

"They are striking at the heart of what Timbuktu stands for . . . Mali and the world are losing a lot," Souleymane Bachir Diagne, a professor at New York's Columbia University and an expert on Islamic philosophy in Africa, told Reuters. Over the last three days, Islamists of the Ansar Dine rebel group which in April seized Mali's north along with Tuareg separatists destroyed at least eight Timbuktu mausoleums and several tombs, centuries-old shrines reflecting the local Sufi version of Islam in what is known as the "City of 333 Saints."

For centuries in Timbuktu, an ancient Saharan trading depot for salt, gold and slaves which developed into a famous seat of Islamic learning and survived occupations by Tuareg, Bambara, Moroccan and French invaders, local people have worshipped at the shrines, seeking the intercession of the holy individuals. This kind of popular Sufi tradition of worship is anathema to Islamists like the Ansar Dine fighters—Defenders of the Faith—who adhere to Salafism, which is linked to the Wahhabi puritanical branch of Sunni Islam found in Saudi Arabia. "A Salafi would say that creating a culture of saints is akin to idol-worshipping," Diagne said. Unlike Christianity, where the clergy formally confers sainthood, the veneration of "saints" in various, non-Wahhabi, strands of Islam largely arises from popular reverence for pious historical figures.

Rejecting a wave of outrage inside and outside Mali against the shrine destructions, an Ansar Dine spokesman in Timbuktu, Sanda Ould Boumama, defiantly told French radio RFI at the weekend that the actions were in line with the group's aim of installing sharia Islamic law across all of divided Mali. "Human beings cannot be elevated higher than God . . . When the Prophet entered Mecca, he said that all the mausoleums should be destroyed. And that's what we're repeating," Boumama said.

In what she called a "cry from the heart" for world help to halt the destruction, Malian Culture Minister Diallo Fadima Toure told a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in St. Petersburg on Sunday that Ansar Dine's depredations had "nothing to do with Islam, a religion of peace and tolerance. . . .Are we just going to let this go and stand and watch? Today this is happening in Mali, tomorrow where will it be?".

"Crime against History"

Experts are comparing the Timbuktu tomb destructions to similar attacks against Sufi shrines by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year. The attacks also recall al Qaeda attacks on Shi'ite shrines in Iraq in the past decade and the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two 6th-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. "It's against everybody and everything," said University of Cape Town Professor Shamil Jeppie, an expert on Timbuktu who co-edited with Diagne a 2008 study, The Meanings of Timbuktu, on the city's priceless archaeology and ancient manuscripts.

Mali's government in the capital Bamako about 1,000 km (600 miles) south has condemned the attacks, but is powerless to halt them after its army was routed by rebels in April. It is still struggling to bolster a return to civilian rule after a March 22 coup that emboldened the rebel uprising further north.

Some believe the tomb-wrecking onslaught by Ansar Dine, which is led by Tuareg chieftain turned Salafist Iyad Ag Ghali, may have been directly triggered by UNESCO's decision on Thursday to accept the Mali government's urgent request to put Timbuktu on a list of endangered World Heritage sites. "That is meaningless to Ansar Dine; what is UNESCO to them?" said Jeppie. Just as northern Nigerian Islamist militants are carrying out bloody bombings and shootings under the name Boko Haram (which broadly means "Western education is sinful"), so Ansar Dine's fighters may see UNESCO  as an emblem of Western heresy.

"They are not scholars; they are foot soldiers," added Jeppie, adding they were probably unaware that Timbuktu, which was an alluring mirage of exoticism and remoteness for 19th-century European explorers, represented multiple and varied layers of Islamic tradition deposited like sand over centuries. Its long history had tracked the turbulent rise and fall of the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. "Timbuktu was sacked many times before," said Jeppie."But we have had no events of destruction of monuments, mosques and tombs. It never happened before."

The UNESCO ambassadors meeting in St. Petersburg on Tuesday joined Malian Culture Minister Toure  in appealing to global governments and organizations and "all people of goodwill" to act to prevent the prevent the destruction of the Timbuktu monuments by "vandals." "We consider this action to be a crime against history," the appeal said. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee called on the agency's director general, Irina Bokova, who has already roundly condemned the Timbuktu damage, to create a special fund to help Mali preserve its cultural patrimony from attack. It asked UNESCO members and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to provide financial resources for this fund.

Purity over Popularity?

Just as gold-hungry 19th-century European travelers who first cast eyes on Timbuktu were disappointed to find, not glittering minarets and palaces, but a desert-rimmed cluster of dun-colored homes and mosques, so some observers might view the city's mausoleums and tombs as modest when compared with the architectural opulence of, say, Rome or Athens or Damascus. The rectangular local mausoleums mimic the desert earthen architecture of the city's still imposing and renowned Sankore, Sidi Yahya and Djingarei-ber mosques, the latter Timbuktu's oldest, built in mud-brick and wood in 1325.

"They are mud structures, nothing fancy at all," said Columbia University's Diagne—and so the more easily reduced to dust by the pick-axes and shovels of the Ansar Dine combatants. But rather than visual splendor, it is what the tombs represent for Africa's history, and especially the history of Islam in Africa, that concerns historians and scholars. They make the point that relatively few physical vestiges remain of the great Sahelian empire states that flourished and then died out centuries ago, and the damage inflicted in Timbuktu will reduce that archaeological heritage further.

They are scratching their heads as to why Ansar Dine and its well-armed allies, who hijacked a separatist uprising by local Tuareg MNLA rebels following the March coup in the Malian capital Bamako, would risk offending local sensibilities by destroying revered shrines in occupied cities like Timbuktu. "They are more worried about purity than about being unpopular," is the explanation Diagne offers.

Scholars are also fretting about the fate of tens of thousands of ancient and brittle manuscripts, some from the 13th century, housed in libraries and private collections in Timbuktu. Academics say these prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance. Days after the rebels took Timbuktu, local academics, librarians and citizens were hiding away the manuscripts to stop them being damaged or looted. Jeppie said researchers had since fled the city. Some collectors had smuggled their rarest documents out to Bamako.

Diagne said the biggest fear was that historic manuscripts and artifacts would become the object of looting and trafficking for profit—just another trading commodity in the trackless Sahara, where trafficking in drugs, arms and migrants has replaced the old caravans of slaves, salt and gold. He found it deeply ironic that the Ansar Dine tomb destroyers, who said they were upholding the name of Islam, were ignoring and denying through their acts the rich layered history and geographical spread of this great global religion. Noting the role Sufi believers played in spreading Islam beyond its Arabian heartland, Diagne said: "If it had not been for the Sufi orders, Islam would have been a local religion."

Source: TheRepublic 

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Tell the UN Security Council, ECOWAS & the African Union

Stop the Destruction of the World’s Heritage in Timbuktu & Gao, Mali

We ask that you sign this petition urging the UN Security Council—and all UN member states—ECOWAS and the African Union to bring an immediate end to the attacks on the people and sacred sites of Timbuktu and Gao for the sake of the world’s precious heritage in Mali.—change

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On the Crisis in Mali: Statement issued By Dr. Molefi Asante—5 July 2012—Afrocentricity International condemns the destruction of historic monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu and calls for an immediate response by the African Union to the Ansar Dine criminals who have chosen to bring their destruction to the heart of West African culture. Led by Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg nomad who converted to the Pakistani style Islam, Ansar Dine is allied to MUJUAO of Algeria and Boko Haram of Nigeria.  Since it is not clear if the African Union has either the will power or the military capability to respond to the assault against one of the most sacred of African cities then we call upon the nations of Africa, acting in their capacity as regional powers, to arrest this destruction. However, we demand in the name of African people the immediate response of the African Union to this crisis!

Afrocentricity International does not believe it is the responsibility of NATO, the European Union, or the United States AFRICOM to save Africa. Africa must save itself! If Africa cannot save itself and will not save itself, then it cannot be saved. . . . The attackers who have sacked the mausoleums of Timbuktu allied themselves to the Tuareg MNLA, a group fighting to have the government recognize legitimate grievances of the northerners. Soon after the Taureg rebels seceded the northern part of Mali from the rest of the country in March 2012, the little known Ansar Dine group supposedly with support from Al Qaeda in Libya drove the secular MNLA out of Timbuktu and Gao and took over as the absolute rulers of the north. They have taken rights away from women, killed people they claim were violating the Koran, and imposed Sharia law.

These Neanderthalian activities have plunged Mali deeper into the closet of ignorance than almost any other nation in Africa. Afrocentricity International blames Malian leadership for the crisis because that leadership did not practice equality, justice, and respect toward its own people and opened the door for this throwback gang of terrorists who have now laid hold to the land of Sunni Ali Ber.

Once again the crisis in Mali has proved what Afrocentricity International has always claimed that when you accept the religion and ideology of foreigners, you will end up fighting against your own interests. Indeed, the rumble in the ancient cities of Northern Mali, Timbuktu, Jenne, and Gao, is nothing more than a down payment on the problems that Africa will face in Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Chad, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. . . .

Dr. Ama Mazama, Per-aat International

Dr. Molefi Kete Asante, International Organizer

 www.Afrocentricityinternational.org

4 July 2012

Source: TheNigerianVoice

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Mali, UNESCO Plead for Help —4 July 2012An emergency appeal was made in St. Petersburg on Tuesday during which ambassadors from UNESCO and the Malian Minister of Culture called for the world’s governments and international organizations “not to allow vandals to wipe out historical monuments” in the Malian city of Timbuktu. UNESCO representatives, who read out the appeal in English, Russian, French, Arabic and Spanish in front of the city’s famed Bronze Horseman monument, described the destruction being carried out by Islamist extremists as “a crime against history.” “This is one of the most ancient African temples which is disappearing,” UNESCO representatives, who were gathered in the city for the 40th anniversary of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, said in the appeal. The Malian Minister of Culture, Diallo Fadimo Toure, who struggled to hold back tears, thanked the world for its solidarity and sympathy, saying that the destruction of such a “unique and sacred place as Timbuktu would be a huge loss for all of Africa and the world.” —sptimes

Mali appeals for UN help after Islamists attack shrines  / Islamists continue destroying Timbuktu heritage

Islamists in Mali: funding and ideological ratlines linking Saudi Arabia and Qatar

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Qatar suspected of supporting al-Qaeda in Mali—Robert Tilford—30 June 2012—I listened to a U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the “threat of Islamist terrorists in northern Mali.” It seems Mali has become a “magnet for foreign fighters”, who are flocking into that country to train new recruits to use weapons recently misappropriated from Libya in the confusion and mess of the U.S. backed regime change. As such Mali has now become a new breeding ground for terrorism.

Islamic militants associated with Ansar Dine, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] are “recruiting” young Tuareg boys with promises of food to eat (a luxury for some in Mail) and money, are teaching them to hate the West and use weapons in a network of madrassas or religious schools, funded by our friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Oddly U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson tried for some reason to make a distinction between Tuareg rebels and Islamist terrorists. He suggested they be handled separately.—examiner

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Timbuktu shrine destruction 'a war crime'—2 Jul 2012—The hardline Islamists who seized control of Timbuktu along with the rest of northern Mali three months ago, consider the shrines to be idolatrous and have wrecked seven tombs in two days.  Mali's government and the international community have expressed horror and outrage at the destruction of cultural treasures in the fabled city, an ancient desert crossroads and centre of learning known as the "City of 333 Saints".

"My message to those involved in these criminal acts is clear: stop the destruction of the religious buildings now," ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told AFP in an interview in Dakar. "This is a war crime which my office has authority to fully investigate." She said that Mali was signatory to the Rome Statute which established the ICC, which states in Article 8 that deliberate attacks against undefended civilian buildings which are not military objectives are a war crime.

"This includes attacks against historical monuments as well as destruction of buildings dedicated to religion," said Mr Bensouda. On Saturday the Islamists destroyed the tombs of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Moctar and Alpha Moya, and on Sunday attacked four more including Cheikh el-Kebir's mausoleum as residents stood by helplessly. Crying "Allahu akbar" (God is Greatest), the men carrying chisels and hoes smashed the tombs.—csmonitor

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Timbuktu Chronicles 1493-1599, Ta'rikh al Fattash

By Mahmud Kati and Translated and Edited by Christopher Wise  

Some five hundred years ago, the Askiya Muhammad founded the Songhay Dynasty of the Askiyas, which flourished for more than a century in Sahelian West Africa. The Askiya Muhammad administered his kingdom from Gao, Mali, although many of his most loyal followers were located in Timbuktu, Mali. The Timbuktu based scribe al hajj Mahmud Kati was a close friend of the Askiya Muhammad, who accompanied the famous Songhay leader during his pilgrimage to Mecca. The Tarikh al fattash is an eyewitness account of the rise and fall of the Songhay Empire, told from Kati s perspective as a key participant in many of the most important events in the era of the Askiyas. Wise s The Timbuktu Chronicles, 1493-1599 is a translation of the Octave Houdas and Maurice Delafosse s rendition of the Tarikh al fattash, which was compiled from three versions of the text that surfaced in the early twentieth century, and that were edited by Houdas and Delafosse in 1913.

It includes a new introduction by Wise, as well as the original introduction and scholarly notes of Houdas and Delafosse. Although long valued as the most important historical document of the medieval period, Kati s chronicle is also a literary achievement that is comparable to the writings of figures like Chaucer, Rabelais, and Montaigne. . . . Mahmud Kati ibn al hajj al-Mutawakkil Kati was born in Kurmina (Northern Mali), in the year 1468. Kati s father was a Sephardic Arab Muslim, who migrated to Timbuktu in the era of the Spanish Inquisition. Kati s mother was a black African woman of Songhay-Soninke origin. Kati lived most of his adult life in Timbuktu. He most likely died in 1552, fourteen years after the death of the Askiya Muhammad.

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The Hidden Treasures of Timbuktu

Rediscovering Africa's Literary Culture

By Alida Jay Boye and John O. Hunwick

For centuries, trading caravans made epic journeys across the Saharan sands to reach the markets of the legendary city of Timbuktu, where they traded salt, gold, slaves, textiles—and books. By the mid-fifteenth century, Timbuktu had become a major center of Islamic literary culture and scholarship. The city's libraries were repositories of all the world's learning, housing not only works by Arab and Islamic writers but also volumes from the classical Greek and Roman worlds and studies by contemporary scholars. The astonishing manuscripts of Timbuktu form the lavish visual heart of this book. Beautifully graphic, occasionally decorated, these exquisite artifacts reveal great craftsmanship as well as learning. All were written in the Arabic script, but not all are in Arabic, for they also feature a range of local African languages.

Aside from scholarly works, the surviving manuscripts include a wealth of correspondence between rulers, advisers, and merchants on subjects as various as taxation, commerce, marriage, divorce, adoption, breastfeeding, and prostitution, providing a vivid insight into the ordinary life and values of the day.

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The Meanings of Timbuktu

By Shamil Jeppie and Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Contradicting the popular notion that African history survived only through the oral tradition, this collection of essays examines the rich legacy of written history on the continent, specifically in Timbuktu. It brings together articles written by a number of leading international scholars from Europe, the United States, and several African countries, covering a wide range of areas in the study of Timbuktu, from archaeology and literature to the intellectual life, libraries, and private collections in Timbuktu and West Africa.

Shamil Jeppie is a senior lecturer in the department of historical studies at the University of Cape Town, a key advisor to the South Africa-Mali Timbuktu Manuscript Project, and the author of Language Identity Modernity: The Arabic Study Circle of Durban.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is a professor in the department of philosophy at Northwestern University. He is the author of The Cultural Question in Africa, as well as a French translation of mathematician George Boole's Laws of Thought. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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The Yambo Ouologuem Reader

By Yambo Ouologuem; Translated and Edited by Chrisopher Wise

Yambo Ouologuem is perhaps Africa s most controversial writer. His novel Le devoir de violence, which won the Prix Renaudot in 1968, was banned in France for more than three decades before its recent reappearance. In the U.S.A., France and Africa, Ouologuem s work has been criticized, debated, analyzed, and interpreted by countless writers, critics, and professional academics, many of whom remain sharply divided about his historical legacy. The Yambo Ouologuem Reader offers a fresh translation of Le devoir de violence, newly entitled The Duty of Violence, along with translations of two other texts by Ouologuem that have never appeared in the English language, Ouologuem s controversial A Black Ghostwriter s Letter to France and an excerpt from his erotic novel, A Thousand and One Bibles of Sex (originally published under the pseudonym of Utto Rodolph). Although not as well known outside the Francophone world, Ouologuem s other literary works are provocative texts in their own right that also break new ground for African literature, as well as offer further evidence of Ouologuem s literary genius.

Ouologuem s writings are not for the faint of heart. Ouologuem s aversion for Senghorian negritude and more idyllic depictions of Africa s past is, for some readers, a refreshingly honest dimension of his work, whereas others have found Ouologuem s vision of African history to be terrifying. Most of Ouologuem s readers agree, however, that he is one of Africa's most original writers, who is certain to provoke, disturb, and unsettle those who read his books. The texts contained in The Yambo Ouologuem Reader are essential reading for all those interested in African literature.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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