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Mali, France and Timbuktu’s Treasures


by Garibaldi

Timbuktu, Mali is one of the historic and majestic cities of Islamic and Muslim cultural heritage, indeed world heritage. For years it bloomed as a center of learning in the disciplines of mathematics, astronomy, physics, philosophy, gnosticism and theology. Mansa Musa, one of the greatest kings of the medieval era built his grand palace in the city, making it a center of trade, knowledge and commerce.

The past year has seen Mali tragically wracked by dangerous instability. Long simmering ethnic divisions have simmered into an insurgency boosted by NATO weapons (used in the war in Libya that ousted Col.Gaddafi) against a corrupt government overthrown in a military coup.

A brutally reckless and religiously illiterate grouping of militant Salafists stepped in to take advantage of the turmoil, in the process destroying ancient tombs of revered saints, applying an unjust and by all reports bastardized form of “Shariah,” and until a few days ago they were thought to have burnt down thousands of ancient manuscripts (see article below).

It must be pointed out that the insurgency is not one that is simply broken down into terrorists vs. the government or Islamists vs. Secularists. In the fog of violence what is clear is that all sorts of elements are mixed into the hostilities between the state of Mali and insurgents, present are: aggrieved state workers, drug smugglers, criminal gangs, nationalists and militant Salafi-Islamists.

France’s entry into Mali has been widely reported as a positive, successful operation but it is not one that is being done for altruistic purposes or as France portrays it: doing their part in the “global War on Terror.” Let us have no illusions about it, France is in Mali to secure its interests (precious resources), as Tariq Ramadan masterfully points out in his article Mali, France and the Extremists(original in French). This is made even more clear when we realize that France had in the case of Libya, and still is in Syria, supporting “rebel” groups explicitly allied to or ideologically aligned with AlQaeda.

Thankfully, intrepid citizens secured Timbuktu’s treasures over a year ago. (h/t: Rizwan)

Intrepid Citizens Save Timbuktu’s Priceless Manuscripts

(The American Interest)

Once again civilization survives barbarism: Timbuktu’s ancient literary treasures were not destroyed after all. In a classic example of how the uncertainty of war can make bad reporters of us all, local accounts apparently vastly exaggerated the damage done to the city’s legendary library. Not only was the place not burned to the ground—as the city’s mayor claimed—but the manuscripts themselves were removed from the library by Malians last year. The Daily Maverick reports:

Preservationists in Mali told Walt that a large-scale rescue operation was executed early last year and thousands of manuscripts were hauled out of the Ahmed Baba Institute [the name of the library that housed the manuscripts] to a safe house elsewhere. “Realising that the documents might be prime targets for pillaging or vindictive attacks from Islamic extremists, staff left behind just a small portion of them, perhaps out of haste, but also to conceal the fact that the centre had been deliberately emptied,” Walt said. . . .

Other reports now suggest just 2,000 manuscripts were kept at the Ahmed Baba Institute while a further 28,000 were transferred safely to Bamako last year. According to these reports, efforts to save the manuscripts began as soon as northern Mali fell to Tuareg rebels last year. So while some manuscripts may have been destroyed, or looted, by fleeing rebels, the bulk of the collection appears to have been saved.

Though of course the loss of even some of the the manuscripts is tragic, we are greatly relieved that the majority of the collection has been saved. We are also inspired by the example of decency and courage displayed by the citizens who saved these treasures.

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  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    another treasure from Mali

    North and south together
    Sir David

  • “…so in Africa they are trying to to do this black vs Arab thing”

    The racism against Africans in the Arab world is not new, nor any kind of ‘invention’ by Western powers. In many ways, the Arab world has not had to face its demons in this regard as Europe has. The ‘reprisals’ (disgusting as such a term is) against sub-Saharan Africans post-Gaddafi in Libya is simply one example. Darfur is another, a genocide, and in some cases perhaps even more horrifically, slavery. The current abuses many Africans, amongst others, face throughout the Middle East. The list goes on.

    It’s a very real, and very ugly, problem for that part of the world. It would be a disservice to not acknowledge it.

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  • rookie

    “In a classic example of how the uncertainty of war can make bad reporters of us all, local accounts apparently vastly exaggerated the damage done to the city’s legendary library. Not only was the place not burned to the ground—as the city’s mayor claimed—but the manuscripts themselves were removed from the library by Malians last year.”

    I doubt that the manuscripts were removed by Malians.

    A typical excuse of someone who did spread those exaggerations – like, why are all the manuscripts intact – the answer would be, well, we removed them timely.

    At least we have usual suspects – it is not us, it is salafis!!!

    Witness describes Mali forces ‘executing’ students

    Mali Forces Execute Devout Muslim Students

    As someone already pointed out – this is the aim of France
    – “divide et impera”.

  • Tanveer Khan


  • Tanveer Khan

    Yeah, totally agree.

  • mjasghar786

    A disturbing trend in western intervention in Muslim countries is they create a racial aspect to any conflict – so in Africa they are trying to to do this black vs Arab thing
    Why? Simple The different groups then all want seperate countries and lots of small countries in a rich resource area mean you can easily corrupt the leaders and make them rely on you for military protection so they sign dels with your country
    Cases in point: south Sudan created so the us could have a puppet regime to siphon of Sudan oil
    Also the reason why the Kurds are so well funded – the west would love another puppet in the Mid East esp so close to Israel and to a possible pipeline from Central Asia
    Ditto those idiots who think an independent Baluchistan would be great

  • I would have to say so. It’s a wonderful thing that these texts have been preserved. To have lost them to a bunch of thugs would’ve been absolutely devastating to humanity’s cultural heritage. Many African societies practice oral history, and so, what we know about those cultures hundreds (even thousands) of years ago is sorely lacking. Western Africa, though, is an example where language did develop into a written form. Quite frankly, I’d hazard a guess that most of what we know about the various empires in this part of the world is due to this collection.

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    What most people dont realise is the only reason that these books are there is that hundreds of people hid them from the French colonial rulers đź?‰
    Now they are ‘saved ‘ by the French
    Sir David

  • Tanveer Khan

    You could say it’s spreading mischief on the earth I guess.

  • mindy1

    I am glad that the history has been saved. Items of historical value should NEVER be destroyed. I am assuming that this would be against Islam?

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