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Uproar after scholar bans excavation of Egyptian mummies

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Jan 26, 2021

Egyptian scholar Ahmed Karima just lately sparked heated controversy after he banned the excavation of tombs of historical Egyptians at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive its very important tourism trade from the unfavorable affect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Karima, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, stated the exhumation of graves is prohibited below Islamic teachings. “Extracting the bodies of the ancient Pharaohs and putting them on display in return for dollars from visitors is forbidden,” Karima stated in televised statements Jan. 19 on state-run tv.

Karima stated digging up the graves violates the dignity of the lifeless and the Islamic faith forbids their desecration. “Bodies of the dead cannot be exhumed unless for the purpose of scientific search,” the scholar stated.

“The grave is a blessing from God to house the human being after his demise,” he added.

Karima stated Islam requires honoring the human being after loss of life. “Museums can exhibit the treasures of the Pharaohs, talk about [their civilization] and about the mummification, but without displaying their dead bodies.”

Ayman Ashmawi, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector on the Supreme Council of Antiquities, declined a request by Al-Monitor for remark.

Renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass lashed out at Karima, saying his spiritual views apply to tomb robbers, not archaeologists. “We do not excavate the graves of Muslims, Christians or Jews,” Hawass stated in Jan. 20 statements to Egypt’s Sada al-Balad channel. He stated archaeologists and the Ministry of Antiquities are working to revive the greatness of the Pharaohs and their civilization.

“The opinion of Sheikh Karima can be applied to thieves who tamper with graves and destroy mummies, but archaeologists work to immortalize these people, as they restore their coffins, graves and mummies, because the presence of these coffins inside the wells exposes them to decomposition and fragmentation,” Hawass stated.

Hawass, a former minister of state for antiquities, stated Karima’s statements had been solely meant for publicity and fame. He added that placing the traditional mummies on public show was not humiliation of the ancestors.

“The mummies will be exhibited at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in a civilized way, with a detailed explanation of each mummy and the historical era in which it lived,” he stated.

Liberal columnist and TV host Khaled Montaser, who is understood for his Reformist views, was additionally crucial of Karima’s spiritual view. He stated Karima’s opinion was unfavorable propaganda earlier than the deliberate inauguration of the Egyptian Grand Museum.

The museum, one of many largest on the earth, is ready to be opened later this 12 months and can showcase nearly 60,000 artifacts, with 5,000 relics from Tutankhamun’s assortment, together with 2,000 artifacts that can be displayed for the primary time.

The Egyptian authorities is pinning excessive hopes on the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the Giza Pyramids, to spice up the restoration of the tourism trade, which has been arduous hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani stated Jan. four that the variety of vacationers to Egypt dropped to three.5 million in 2020 from 13.1 million in 2019. Revenues of the tourism sector additionally plunged final 12 months to $four billion, with nearly a 70% drop because of the virus outbreak.

A key supply of overseas foreign money, the tourism trade accounts for as much as 15% of Egypt’s nationwide output. In an effort to revive the very important trade, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait on Jan. 6 allotted 6.Three billion Egyptian kilos ($400.7 million) to help the tourism, tradition and aviation sectors through the pandemic. Maait stated 3.2 billion kilos ($203.5 million) had been allotted to the tourism and cultural sectors and three.1 billion kilos ($197.1 million) to the aviation sector to assist them stand up to the repercussions of the pandemic.

The Egyptian authorities has carried out intensive digging operations in recent times, leading to a string of archaeological discoveries, reviving hopes that the findings can increase the restoration of the tourism trade.

The debate about public show of historical mummies dates again a long time. In 1980, then-President Anwar Sadat ordered the Royal Mummy Room on the Egyptian Museum closed, saying that the show of the stays violated spiritual ideas and desecrated the lifeless. The ban remained in place for seven years earlier than the traditional royal mummies had been put again on show once more in 1987. Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists in 1981.

Hajjaji Ibrahim, archaeology professor at Tanta University, agrees with Karima that the follow of exhibiting the traditional mummies of the Pharaohs should cease.

“There is nothing in traditions or Islamic teachings that allow the public display of the dead bodies to visitors,” Ibrahim informed Al-Monitor by telephone. “We can exhume the tombs for the purpose of scientific research and put the bodies back [in] the graves.”

Ibrahim continued, “All the dead and their graves have dignity, and this must be respected. This applies to all, whether Islamic, Christian, Greco-Roman or ancient Egyptian.”

Ibrahim disputed the argument that archaeologists had been working to have a good time historical Egyptian civilization. “The achievements of the Pharaohs can be exhibited, but not their dead bodies,” he stated.

He questioned, “Would those who support the public display of the royal mummies at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization agree to have their bodies exhibited after their death?”

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