Hussien and Maari share a lot of common features: both were physically blind, both were skeptics and both were anti-mainstream; both (each in a different age) lead the critique of religious thought to high peaks of rationality , for which they were considered by some religious authorities to be infidel. Islamists have plenty of reasons to revenge Hussein and al-Maari. In his poetry Abul Alaa mocked the metaphysics of religion while Hussein questioned the originality and authorship of religious narratives and doubted the linguistic bases on which all the Islamic tradition is built. During Hussein’s life time his book “On Jahili Poetry” was ceremonially burned by Islamists in Cairo and was officially withdrawn from bookshops in 1926 to appear only in late 1990s.
Vandalizing the statues signifies the retrospective effect of islamization on our culture. Islamists do not only seek to take over a nation’s present and future, they also aim to control the nation’s relationship with its cultural history. The sharp cut with the past which makes people lose the sense of cultural identity allows islamists to impose on the society the radical religious identity as the only one ever. When all the mirrors in which a nation sees itself are destroyed, it would be easier to believe the distorted image of a curved mirror.
Islamists are trying to employ toppling of statues in public spaces to create a similar emptiness in public consciousness. But what they fail to understand is that decapitating the statues of Hussien’s and al-Maarri’s totally differs from toppling the statues of dictators during revolutions. The dictator’s statue is a violent occupant of the public space, and his presence in a nation’s consciousness is forced and transitory while the statues of poets, philosophers and writers are an embodiment of the nation’s cultural heritage, a national auto-portrait. Toppling a dictator’s statue is an act of liberation but decapitating a poet’s statue is act of mass oppression.
Decapitating the statues does not only reflect the Islamists’ concept of punishing the body for the transgressions of mind or as they state it themselves: “the sword against pen” (here the penalty in this case is applied on the metallic body of the statue as a symbol of the real physical body), it also reflects the will of islamists to impose theocratic dictatorship. The statues are used to deliver a threatening message: “the head that dares to think shall be sawn”.