Islamists blamed as statue is decapitated

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A STATUE of the blind Arab poet Abu al-Ala al-Maari, famed for his critiques of Islam and other religions in the 11th century, has been decapitated and toppled from its plinth in his home town in northern Syria.

A picture of Maari’s headless bust, rusting and abandoned in the town of Maarat al-Noman, circulated online yesterday, angering many Syrians. Islamist rebels battling president Bashar al-Assad were accused of cultural vandalism.

Maari, who was also a philosopher, was known for his sceptical writings on religious faith.

He once wrote: “Inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains.”

Maarat al-Noman, where he died in 1058, was at the centre of battles between government forces and the majority Sunni Muslim rebels, who now control the town.

A photograph of a banner seen in Damascus was yesterday circulated online. It proclaimed: “Your barbarity will not destroy the philosophy of Maari – it lives and you go. Ideas do not die.”

An activist called Safi, who described himself as a moderate Muslim, said: “The war against the regime does not give justification for anyone to destroy the cultural heritage of the country.”