Morocco denies pagan rock carving destroyed
RABAT (Reuters) - The Moroccan government has denied that an 8,000-year-old rock engraving depicting the Sun as a divinity has been destroyed in the south of the country in an attack residents had blamed on ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims.
Communications Minister Mustafa el-Khalfi took journalists to the site of the pagan engraving in the Toukbal National Park to demonstrate that reports of its destruction were untrue.
Ahmed Assid, a prominent activist for the indigenous Amazigh people and member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), had said the petroglyph had been destroyed this week and that local activists had blamed Salafis. However, Assid said at the time he had yet to see pictures of the reported damage.
Meryem Demnati, of the Amazigh Freedoms and Rights Watchdog, had also said the petroglyph had been destroyed.
Morocco has generally followed a tolerant form of Sunni Islam, but Salafis rose to prominence after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. Hundreds were jailed after suicide bombings in the city of Casablanca in 2003.
Amazigh, or Imazighen, are berbers who lived in north Africa long before Muslims arrived there in the 7th century. While there are no official figures on their numbers, Morocco is widely believed to have the biggest Amazigh community in the world.