Conservative followers of Islam known as Salafists are being blamed for destroying an 8,000-year-old pagan rock engraving in the south of Morocco. Opponents say are trying to establish their fundamentalist view of Islam on the local community.
A well-known supporter for the indigenous Amazigh people, Ahmed Assid, revealed that the engraving, which is also known as a petroglyph, was destroyed in Toubkal National Park.
Assid, who is also a member of the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture, stated that he had not visually seen evidence of the destruction but that he had received word from Amazigh activists.
"The information we have received from Amazigh activists in the area suggests Salafists were behind the act … This act follows a noticeable rise in Salafist activities in predominantly-Amazigh regions of Morocco to enforce a puritanical interpretation of Islam," Assid told Reuters.
"Their view is that aspects of Amazigh culture, including pre-Islamic heritage, still present today defeat the purpose of the Islamic conquests," he added.
Assid also described that Salafists are trying to buy off local residents with cash and other goods in order to get locals to forego practicing Amazigh rituals and instead adopt Islamic religious customs.
In the past, Morocco had a relatively tranquil existence ,and the majority of Moroccans followed a tolerant sect of Sunni Islam. Now, fundamentalist Salafists have begun to increase in numbers and prominence after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Moroccan government officials have not commented on the incident and have been accused of failing to prevent the destruction of Moroccan artifacts and heritage.
"Some 37,000 Amazigh petroglyphs like the one that was destroyed this week have been smuggled out of Morocco in the past 20 years," Assid told Reuters.
In addition to the destruction of the petroglyph Islamic fundamentalists have destroyed various tombs and shrines in the city of Timbuktu, justifying their actions by claiming to defend their faith in the face of idol worship.