Culture: extemist religions threat to cultural heritage

sectarian violence leads to loss of history, Tunisian expert

17 October, 15:47

(ANSAmed) - BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 17 - The exploitation of religion for political ends has brought with it the ongoing destruction of ancient religious monuments throughout southern Mediterranean countries, Tunisian urban conservationist Jellal Abdelkafi said at a Center for Mediterranean Europe Studies (MESEURO) conference on Wednesday.

''The exploitation of religions throughout the Mediterranean basin has become evident today,'' Abdelkafi said on the sidelines of the conference, titled Mediterranean Heritage, a Motor for Development. ''We cannot accept the destruction of mausoleums, the mutilation of mosques, the plundering of churches and synagogues. We cannot accept it, and that is a fundamental concept. If we have a cultural heritage, it is a global one and it belongs to everyone.'' The radicalization of Islam in the Maghreb, the Islamization of Turkey, the Catholicization of Europe, the ongoing sectarian strife in Lebanon and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict all contribute to the rise in iconoclastic violence.

''The time of religion without culture has arrived,'' said Abdelkafi, quoting French political scientist Olivier Roy. ''The three great monotheistic religions are engaged in a negative competition, and they are emptying religions of their history.

The destruction of a mausoleum means the will to destroy a historical mark.'' Civil society is the only hope in the face of this particular kind of violence, says Abdelkafi. ''In Tunisia, every time there is a drift towards sectarian violence, civil society reacts well: its ability to strive for consciousness is an element of hope,'' he said. (ANSAmed).

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