The Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza are now the target of a radical Salafist jihadist leader.
Murgan Salem al-Gohary, 50, an Islamist leader twice-sentenced under former President Hosni Mubarak for advocating violence, told Egyptian media that the historical landmarks are ‘idolatrous’ and must be destroyed.
The threats are being taken seriously as ten years ago Gohary helped smash a pair of giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan.
Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said Gohary is a jihadist leader with links to the Taliban, reported the Jerusalem Post.
‘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 al-Masry al-Youm.
His comments came a day after thousands of Islamists gathered in Tahrir Square to call for the strict application of Sharia law in the new constitution.
He is issuing the same call as supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar did in 2001 when he issued an edict against un-Islamic graven images, which means all idolatrous images of humans and animals.
The Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza are now the target of a radical Salafist jihadist leader
As a result, the Taliban destroyed all ancient sculptures, using explosives, tanks, and anti-aircraft weapons blew apart a pair of giant Buddhas in Bamiyan Province, 230 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital of Kabul.
‘He was sentenced twice, one of the two sentences being life imprisonment. He subsequently fled Egypt to Afghanistan, where he was badly injured in the American invasion.
‘In 2007, he traveled from Pakistan to Syria, which then handed him over to Egypt. After Mubarak’s fall in early 2011, he was released from prison by a judicial ruling,’ the newspaper added.
Destruction: His threats are being taken seriously as ten years ago Gohary helped smash a pair of giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan
Missing: A general view of the alcoves where giant Buddha statues once stood in Bamiyan in 2001
The tourism board Ihab el-Badry told Egyptian daily al-Ahram that the group planned to sue President Mohamed Morsi for ‘lack of response’ to Gohary’s threats
The Great Sphinx outside Cairo, which has the head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion, was built soon after the first pyramid – around 4,500 years ago.
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.
The pyramids are a source of national income and they bring tourists to Egypt so the Egyptian Interior Ministry source said officials are taking the threats seriously.
According to al-Masry al-Youm, authorities have taken the ‘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.’
Egypt’s Coalition to Support Tourism are now worried that his threats will deter tourists from visiting the landmarks.
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 threats.
The country has already suffered a decrease in tourism – last year sombre pictures showed rows of empty seats at the Light and Sound Show, below the historic pyramids in Cairo.
Only a year earlier the show had been fully-booked every night.
Dozens of tourists cooed as they watched the landmarks change to shades of purple, green, red and blue among others. Vast beams of light were shot into the air by high-tech lasers.
Egypt had been on the verge of its own economic revolution, with booming tourism and impressive developments of apartments, offices and flats around the country.
But this revolution went no further. In its place were the scenes of violence and mass protest in Tahrir Square in February which became known as the ‘Arab Spring’.
Affect: Egypts Coalition to Support Tourism are now worried that his threats will deter tourists from visiting the landmarks – since the Arab Spring tourism has fallen
In Saudi Arabia the ancient Islamic holy landmarks of Mecca and Medina are under threat.
According to media reports, £690million worth of construction work is beginning on the Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah, where the Prophet Mohammed is buried.
Under the proposed plans the site will be developed to include a mosque with a capacity for 1.6 million worshippers.
The house of one of Mohammed’s wives has already been destroyed to make space for public toilets.
The city of Medina, Islam’s second holiest place is under threat as there is now a plan to pull down three 7th-century mosques.
The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.
Attribution: Jill Reilly