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20 October 2012
Salafists blamed for destroying Morocco stone carvings

Muslim hardliners known as Salafists have been blamed for destroying ancient stone carvings in the Toubkal National Park, south of Marrakech. The rock engravings dated back more than 8,000 years and included an image of the Sun depicted as a pagan god.
     "One of the carvings, called 'The plaque of the Sun', predates the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco," said Aboubakr Anghir of the Amazigh League for Human Rights. The remote area is largely populated by Amazigh people, non-Arab tribes who are indigenous to North Africa, who say they have seen a rise in Salafist efforts 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," said Ahmed Assid, a member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture.
     The ultra-conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam, which strictly prohibits idolatry, has been gaining power in North Africa.
     The destruction of the carvings in Morocco follows an arson attack by Salafists on one of Tunisia's main Sufi mausoleums. Islamist fighters in Mali used pick-axes and shovels to damage the shrines of Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu in June last year.

Edited from BBC News (18 October 2012)

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