Mao’s Cultural Revolution was one of the darkest chapters of the 20th Century: communist zealots, known as “the Red Guards,” attached revolutionary messages to Buddhist statues; seventeen professors from the Shanghai Music Conservatory committed suicide; intellectuals were harassed in public trials during which they had to confess their “sins,” kneeling on makeshift rostrums; thousands of churches, temples and monasteries were demolished; ancient libraries went up in smoke; imperial ceramics were smashed and religious relics melted down. Millions of people were killed.
A new Cultural Revolution is now taking place in the Middle East, where Islam’s Red Guards are obliterating the non-Muslim heritage. If Mao’s Guards took inspiration from the “red book,” Islamic zealots have the Koran. Their targets are Jewish shrines, Christian churches, ancient monuments and cultural masterpieces.
A few days ago in Timbuktu, Mali, Islamists destroyed the tomb of a Sufi saint, Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar. Timbuktu is known as “the city of the 333 saints”, classified as Unesco World Heritage Sites. Sufism is a mystical dimension of Islam, but extremists believe Sufi shrines are “sacrilegious.” The UN cultural body didn’t raise its voice against this Islamic iconoclasm.
A few weeks before, Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, issued a religious fatwa, saying it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.” The most important Muslim cleric in the land that gave birth to Islam called for the destruction of churches without his rule attracting any global condemnation.
While in Libya Jews have been throw out again after trying to restore Tripoli’s ancient synagogue, Egyptians are planning to block Israelis from making the pilgrimages to the tomb of a Jewish saint, Yaakov Abuhatzeira.
An Islamic mob destroyed the Institute of Egypt in Cairo, founded by Napoleon and containing 192,000 books and documents from as far back as the XIX century. Now, it’s gone. Napoleon’s legendary “Description de l’Egypte” is also lost (in 1822 Jean-François Champollion used this document to unveil the mistery of the hierogliphycs). Unesco, again, stood silent. As it stood silent when Egypt’s former cultural minister, Farouk Hosni, said he “would burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries”.
Like in Mao’s China, Islamic salafists are trying to ban ancient statues that dot Egypt and suggested that the pagan treasures “could be covered with wax”. The sirens that embellish the fountain of Zeus in Alexandria have already been deemed “inappropriate” by the Salafist party, which decided to “veil” them completely with a sheet. Salafi leaders are also terrifying liberal intellectuals by calling for banning the novels written by Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab Nobel Prize laureate for Literature who has been called “Egypt’s Balzac”, because his works “encourage drinking alcohol and using drugs”. Mahfouz’s novel “Awlad Haretna” is labelled as “atheistic”. Islamists also want to ban the greatest masterpiece of oriental literature, “One thousand and one arabian nights”, because it’s “depravity” and “offensive to the public good”.
In Israel, Palestinian Muslims are erasing any Jewishh trace on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most holy site. In 2005 thousands of Arabs torched the synagogues in Gaza’s Katif Bloc. It was an orgy of hate, like that of the Red Guards. Twelve years ago, Arabs destroyed Joseph’s tomb, Judaism’s fourth holy site, smashing the stone structure and ripping it apart, brick by brick, as the Red Guards did with Tao’s temples. The arson attack on the Shalom al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho and the continuing gunfire at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are two other examples that come to mind in the Israelo-Palestinian conflict.
Islam’s cultural revolution began when the Taliban destroyed the two wonderful Buddhas in Bamyan, Afghanistan. It was a turning point for a proto-Nazi ideology bent on the physical eradication of its enemies and their religious symbols. If Mao’s Red Guards destroyed the imperial Chinese heritage, Islam’s Red Guards want to cancel any non-Muslim trace in the Middle East. It’s a Koranic Inquisition.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book, “A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism.”