Jihadi leader Murgan Salem al-Gohary called for the destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in a widely watched television interview with Dream TV on Saturday.
Gohary, 50, is well-known in Egypt for his advocacy of violence. He was sentenced twice under former President Hosni Mubarak, one of the two sentences being life imprisonment. He subsequently fled Egypt to Afghanistan, where he was badly injured in the American invasion. In 2007, he traveled from Pakistan to Syria, which then handed him over to Egypt. After Mubarak's fall in early 2011, he was released from prison by a judicial ruling.
“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said.
His remarks came one day after thousands of ultraconservative Islamists gathered in Tahrir Square to call for the strict application of Sharia law in the new constitution. Such calls have stirred worries among liberals, secularists and non-Muslim Egyptians.
“God ordered Prophet Mohamed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”
The vice president of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, called the station and told Gohary that famous military commander Amr ibn al-Aas did not destroy statues when he conquered Egypt.
“So who are you to do it?” he wondered. “The Prophet destroyed the idols because people worshiped them, but the Sphinx and the Pyramids are not worshiped.”