Muslim tomb raiders loot timeless treasuresJuly 23, 2012
From Timbuktoo to Cairo, Islamic grave robbers are pilfering history’s treasures. It’s all permitted by Islam because the artifacts themselves are un-Islamic.
This special report came to us from NBC’s Rock Center in late June, and didn’t get enough attention at the time:
…What can’t be covered up is the damage that some of their brethren have already inflicted on Egypt’s pre-Islamic monuments. Outside Saqqara, the site of Egypt’s oldest pyramid, Rock Center visited a mosque that had been hastily built atop a causeway to a Pharaonic temple in the weeks just after the revolution. The men were putting the final touches on the main prayer hall and claimed that 10,000 villagers had helped clear out the refuse and support them in a dispute with Egypt’s Antiquities Department.
“They were all celebrating that a garbage dump will become a mosque and that there will be a prayer to God,” said Emad Gouda. The problem according Mohammed Mehagid, the young antiquities inspector at Saqqara who also backed the revolution, is that local people living near archaeological sites were never educated about their cultural value. Few had ever visited Egyptian monuments where millions of tourists had already tread.
“For 30 years of Mubarak reign … people were feeling that it’s not our country anymore so when the revolution came they thought ‘O.K. We have to take revenge’ and this [is] what happened in antiquities,” he said.
But why take revenge against your own past? Consider what the assassin of Mubarak’s predecessor said when he shot President Anwar Sadat: “I have killed the Pharaoh.”
“You have to understand that, before the revolution, people called the police “hukuma” which means government,” said the young antiquities inspector. “So when they broke in ancient tombs, they were very happy to do this against police and the state.”
They were also happy to put some money in their pockets, in a country where most people survive on $2 a day. And, with the police discredited and practically in hiding, thieves and looters could now sometimes brazenly loot the country’s treasures.
According to Egypt’s Interior Ministry and figures published by the Associated Press, the number of illegal digs has increased by 100 times to a mind boggling 5,697 cases. Since the revolution, there have been 1,467 cases of illicit trading in antiquities and 130 attempts to smuggle them abroad. Thirty-five people have been killed while looting Egypt’s treasures, including 10 people buried alive just outside the tourist mecca of Luxor.
Crawling into one of these rabbit holes, while following a prospective looter who had dug 60 feet under his own home, revealed a network of ant trails ending up in a subterranean burial chamber held up by rough hewed column. But the man, who had painstakingly dug out this ancient site with his own hands, wasn’t concerned by a potential cave in. He was more afraid of the ‘jin’ or genies, spirits who he believes still guard ancient treasures.
“If there are any evil spirits or jins here, I read holy verses from the Koran,” he said. “So my protection is provided by God.”
WordPress won’t let us embed the video, but you can see it here on MSNBC.
Oh yeah, and we’re still giving hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Egypt.