Salafists blamed for destroying pagan rock carving in Morocco

Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:37pm EDT
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By Souhail Karam

RABAT (Reuters) - An 8,000-year-old rock engraving depicting the Sun as a divinity has been destroyed in the south of Morocco, local residents said, blaming Salafists seeking to impose their fundamentalist view of Islam.

Ahmed Assid, a prominent activist for the indigenous Amazigh people and member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), said the pagan rock engraving, known as a petroglyph -- was destroyed this week in the Toubkal National Park.

"The information we have received from Amazigh activists in the area suggests Salafists were behind the act," Assid told Reuters, noting however that he had yet to see pictures of the destroyed petroglyph.

"This act follows a noticeable rise in Salafist activities in predominantly-Amazigh regions of Morocco to enforce a puritanical interpretation of Islam," he added.

He said, for example, Salafists were encouraging parents not to play traditional Amazigh music at their children's weddings, giving them cash handouts to opt instead for Islamic religious chants.

"Their view is that aspects of Amazigh culture, including pre-Islamic heritage, still present today defeat the purpose of the Islamic conquests," he added.

Morocco has generally followed a tolerant form of Sunni Islam, but Salafists rose to prominence after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, with hundreds jailed for 2003 bombings in the town of Casablanca.

After the popular uprisings which swept the Arab world last year - which Morocco mostly escaped - they have been expanding their influence across North Africa.   Continued...