(photo credit: Ricardo Liberato)
Egyptian security authorities are taking seriously threats by a radical Salafist
jihadist leader to demolish the Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza, the
Egyptian press reported on Monday.
Murgan Salem al-Gohary told Egypt’s
privately-owned Dream TV2 channel over the weekend that the Sphinx and pyramids
are “idolatrous” and must be destroyed, Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm
The newspaper said Gohary is a jihadist leader with links to
the Taliban and that he had previously helped smash Buddha statues in
Afghanistan ten years ago.
“The idols and statutes that fill Egypt must
be destroyed. Muslims are tasked with applying the teachings of Islam and
removing these idols, just like we did in Afghanistan when we smashed the Buddha
statues,” Gohary said in a Saturday night television interview, according to
The Taliban destroyed a large number of Buddhist
treasures in Afghanistan, including statues that were examples of the country’s
long Buddhist history. In 2001, members of the Taliban blew up a pair of giant
Buddhas and smashed a large number of art forms depicting humans, according to
Gohary traveled to Afghanistan after serving two prison
sentences under then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. After his sojourn in
Afghanistan, where he was injured in an US air strike, the Salafist leader
ventured to Syria where he was arrested and extradited to Egypt, al- Masry
The Egyptian Interior Ministry source said officials are
taking the threats seriously and have “taken the necessary precautions to
prevent violations of the law or any abuses of anything in the public domain or
archaeological treasures including the pyramids,” according to al-Masry
The newspaper also cited a security official who spoke on
condition of anonymity and said that the police and security authorities in Giza
had “taken the necessary precautions to deal with any aggression” against the
pyramids and Sphinx. “They are a source of national income and they bring
tourists to Egypt,” the security source was cited as saying by al- Masry
Later on Thursday, Egypt’s Coalition to Support Tourism said
Gohary’s threats would harm the country’s tourism industry after the
international media picked up on the story.
CST leader Ihab el-Badry told
Egyptian daily al-Ahram that the group planned to sue President Mohamed Morsi
and other government leaders for their ‘lack of response’ to Gohary’s
Badry said that the group planned to wait until Tuesday for an
official response from the Morsi administration, and if one was not forthcoming
they would file a lawsuit against the president and the tourism
The Great Sphinx, known in Arabic as Abu al-Hul, “the father of
terror,” is the world’s largest monolith statue and has stood on the Giza
Plateau on the Nile’s west bank since it was built sometime during the reign of
Pharaoh Khafra (2558- 2532 BCE).
Close to the Sphinx are the three
pyramids of Giza, the largest of which is known as the Great Pyramid and is one
of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In previous months, there have
been a number of reports in the Egyptian and Arab press regarding calls by
Egyptian Salafists and foreign Islamists to demolish the pyramids and
One of the reports, in Egypt’s Rose el-Youssef magazine, cited a
prominent Bahraini sheikh, Abdellatif al-Mahmoud, as asking Morsi on Twitter to
destroy the “idolatrous” pyramids.
However, the sheikh’s Twitter account
was later exposed as a hoax, The New York Times
reported in July.