Egyptian authorities have stepped up security measures to protect the Sphinx and the other great pyramids of Giza after a radical jihadist leader broadcasted on an Egyptian TV station that he hoped to destroy the marvels.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Murgan Salem al-Gohary, a prominent Salafist Muslim with links to the Taliban, told the privately-owned Dream TV2 network that the pyramids are idolatrous and harmful to Islam.
“The idols and statutes that fill Egypt must be destroyed,” al-Gohary said. “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.”
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In 2001, the Taliban, along with al-Gohary's assistance, blew up a number of large Buddha depictions and smashed other art in Afghanistan to erase memories of the country's Buddhist history.
Al-Gohary had traveled to Afghanistan after serving two prison sentences in Egypt during Hosni Mubarek's presidency. After destroying the statues and being injured by a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan, al-Gohary ventured to Syria, where he was arrested and extradited back to Egypt.
While Egyptian media spoke to administration officials who guaranteed the safety of the structures and said the government had taken all the necessary precautions, Egyptian tourism officials feel not enough has been done. Egypt's Coalition to Support Tourism said the threats alone would maim the country's travel industry. The coalition threatened lawsuit against Mohamed Morsi and Egypt's tourism minister if further steps were not taken to protect the pyramids.
The Sphinx, the world's largest monolith statue, has become a target of Salafi and Islamist threats in recent time, reports the Jerusalem Post.
Last week in Tahrir Square, according to U.K.'s Independent, Salafis gathered to call for Sharia Law in Egypt. The Salafist Party is the second most powerful in the country behind the Muslim Brotherhood.