Salafists have been blamed for destroying an 8,000 year-old pagan rock carving in Morocco that depicted the Sun as divinity. Local residents blame the group, who they believe is seeking to impose its fundamentalist view of Islam on local residents.
Prominent activist for the indigenous Amazigh people, Ahmed Assid, who is also a member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), stated that the pagan rock carving, also known as a petroglyph, was destroyed in the Toubkai National Park this week, reports Reuters. Assid stated:
“The information we have received from Amazigh activists in the area suggests Salafists were behind the act.”
While admitting that he has yet to see pictures of the destroyed pagan rock carving, Assid added:
“This act follows a noticeable rise in Salafist activities in predominantly-Amazigh regions of Morocco to enforce a puritanical interpretation of Islam. Their view is that aspects of Amazigh culture, including pre-Islamic heritage, still present today defeat the purpose of the Islamic conquests.”
The Chicago Tribune notes that Morocco generally follows a tolerant form of Sunni Islam, but Salafists rose to prominence following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. They have continued expanding since the popular uprising swept the Middle East and North Africa last year.
Officials with the Moroccan culture ministry were not reached for comment about the destroyed pagan rock carving. Assid stated, however, that Moroccan authorities are at least partly to blame for failing to protect Amazigh ancient artifacts and other archaeological sites. Assid stated:
“Some 37,000 Amazigh petroglyphs like the one that was destroyed this week have been smuggled out of Morocco in the past 20 years.”
Along with the destroyed pagan rock carving, Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters shattered earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in Mali’s fabled desert city of Timbuktu using pick-axes, shovels, and hammers. They justified destroying the cultural artifacts by saying that they were defending the purity of their faith against idol worship.