The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Malian Islamists Burn Ancient Books in Timbuktu

French forces are coming closer to recapturing Timbuktu from Islamist and Tuareg militants, but the city may be minus a few priceless historical and cultural treasures when they get there. The Mayor of the city recently told the AP that Islamists torched the library there, destroying a number of ancient documents of cultural and historical significance. This follows months in which the extremist forces have burned a number of important cultural sites, following a script the Taliban wrote in Afghanistan, with the Buddhas of Bamiyan. The Washington Post reports:

During their rule, the militants have systematically destroyed UNESCO World Heritage sites in Timbuktu.

A spokesman for the al-Qaida-linked militants has said that the ancient tombs of Sufi saints were destroyed because they contravened Islam, encouraging Muslims to venerate saints instead of God.

Among the tombs they destroyed is that of Sidi Mahmoudou, a saint who died in 955, according to the UNESCO website.

People sometimes talk about the war against radical Salafi jihad groups as a clash of civilizations. In reality, as the torching of the great library of Timbuktu, a world class repository of Islamic history, religious writing and culture, shows, this is a war against civilization being waged by barbarian know-nothings. Ignorant young men under the influence of a fanatical cult have destroyed a heritage their cramped and constricted minds could not understand.

Published on January 28, 2013 10:24 am