3000 or more of the world-renowned ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu have been destroyed by Al Qaeda affiliated Islamists in Mali. The radical Islamist terrorists who had attempted to overthrow the Malian government torched the two buildings where the ancient documents were being kept as French and Malian troops moved in to topple the Islamist insurgents. At least one of the ancient manuscripts was written in Hebrew. Another one was written in Turkish. Most were written in Arabic, while others were written in African languages such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara.

The destroyed ancient manuscripts discussed women’s rights, medicine, poetry, music, geography, history, religion, and astronomy. Some of the documents had dated back as far as the year 1204. Unfortunately, most of the destroyed documents had not been digitalized yet by researchers, implying that the knowledge contained in the documents is lost to humanity forever. According to Timbuktu Mayor Hallé Ousmani Cissé, “This is terrible news. The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage. By destroying them they threaten the world. We have to kill all of the rebels in the north.”

Prior to the Islamists taking over Mali in a coup d’état last year, Timbuktu was a world heritage site with a rich historical legacy. The literary heritage of Timbuktu dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Kingdom of Mali and Songhai traded across the African continent and brought magnificent manuscripts into their kingdom. These ancient documents that were destroyed represented the legacy of the Arabs that preserved the ancient classical Greek heritage in the early Middle Ages, in addition to chronicles on Timbuktu’s rich local history. In medieval Spain, Jews had played a prominent role in working beside Arabs in preserving classical Greek knowledge, which later on would be utilized by Europeans during the Renaissance.

Yet, unfortunately, these ancient documents were not the only historically significant victim of the Islamist invasion of Timbuktu. The Islamists also destroyed 300 Sufi religious shrines, many of which were also UNESCO world heritage sites. The destruction of the Sufi shrines has been compared to the Taliban’s obliteration of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. The eradication of these ancient documents and the Sufi shrines of Timbuktu demonstrate that Islamists not only lack respect for Jewish history but also for Muslim history. Although due to French intervention the Islamists are losing ground in Mali, Timbuktu will never fully recover from this latest Islamist onslaught.

Under Islamist rule, the people of Mali suffered immensely. Mali’s musicians, many of whom have international reputations, were targeted by the Islamists. Concerts and music clubs were shut down, musical instruments were smashed and burnt, and many musicians were forced to flee for their lives. They also publicly flogged men for talking to women, amputated the body parts of thieves, forced women to veil, and stoned alleged adulterers to death. Mahu Madu, a native of Timbuktu, even alleged that the Islamist fighters kidnapped local Malian women, and raped them.

The atrocities and archaeological crimes that occurred in Timbuktu and throughout Mali under Islamist rule should serve as a warning for any one who thinks that Israel should relinquish control over Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem. Palestinian Islamists, just like the Islamists in Mali, have zero respect for the archaeological treasures of past generations and non-Muslim religious heritage sites, as demonstrated by their destruction of ancient antiquities on the Temple Mount, their desecration of Joseph’s Tomb, their rioting at Rachel’s Tomb, etc. Thus, any one who cares about preserving humanity’s archaeological heritage should be against giving Islamists the opportunity to rise to power in any location, whether it is Mali, Egypt, Iran, or Israel.

By Rachel Avraham