Islamists are suspected of vandalizing monuments to two of Egypt’s most important cultural icons – famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and Taha Husayn, one of Egypt’s most important intellectuals of the 20th century.
In the town of Mansoura, the hometown of Kulthum, vandals placed an Islamic veil on a statue of her, according to a report in Al-Ahram
The paper also quotes an article published in the liberal daily Al-Masry Al-Youm by Mohamed Salmawy stating,“What did those ignoramuses who attacked the statues do to Islam? They insulted it, and Islam is innocent of their behavior.”
Umm Kulthum, known also as The Star of the East, was one of the Arab world’s most famous singers in the 20th century and she broadcast legendary concerts monthly from Cairo from the 1930s to the 1970s. She grew up in a rural village and moved to Cairo with her family like many others who sought a better life in the city. She sang in various genres, from religious to nationalistic songs.
The growing strength of conservative Muslims in Egypt since the victory of Islamists in national elections, has given them confidence in challenging the country’s cultural heritage that does not meet their religious standards.
In Minya, vandals cut off the head of a 10-year-old marble memorial bust of Taha Husayn in a square named after him, according to the Weekly. Husayn was a famous Egyptian writer who wrote novels and political opinion. He went blind at the age of two and in 1902 he went to study Islam at al-Azhar, the most important Sunni center of learning. He clashed with the conservative views there and later moved to study in secular institutions, including the Sorbonne in France.
He was named the minister of education in 1950 and some of his writings angered religious authorities and Islamists, which helps explain why his monument was targeted.
This follows news from late last year that Islamists want to destroy the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. Sheikh Murgan Salem al-Gohary, who is linked with jihadists, called for the destruction of the historical landmarks in an Egyptian TV interview at the end of last year and said, “All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said as reported by Al Arabiya.
Because these monuments come from the pre-Islamic period (known as Jahiliyya), or the era of ignorance before the revelation of the Quran to Muhammad, these monuments are deemed to be a form of idolatry.
Of course, American Muslims will say this report has nothing to do with Islam and not reflective of the religion as it was explained in several Tulsa meetings.