Sufi shrines under attack in Timbuktu

The hardline Islamist group Ansar Al Dine is currently in the process of destroying the 16 historic Sufi shrines of Timbuktu. Today, they began destroying the 15th-century Sidi Yahya mosque

"In legend, it is said that the main gate of Sidi Yahya mosque will not be opened until the last day (of the world)," Alpha Abdoulahi, the town imam, told Reuters by telephone.

Yet eight Islamist fighters had smashed down the door to the mosque early on Monday, saying they wanted to "destroy the mystery" of the ancient entrance, he said.

"They offered me 50,000 CFA ($100) for repairs but I refused to take the money, saying that what they did is irreparable."

Islamists of the Ansar Dine group say the centuries-old shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam in Timbuktu are idolatrous. They have so far destroyed at least eight of 16 listed mausoleums in the city, together with a number of tombs.

The destruction of the UNESCO-listed sites is being compared to the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001, an event that in truth, probably did a lot more than the violation of human rights to focus international attention on Afghanistan in the days before 9/11.

The destruction in Timbuktu is also part of what seems like an international pattern of violence targeting Sufi Muslims. Pakistan has seen a number of major attacks against Sufis in recent years including an April 2011 attack that killed 41 devotees at a festival in Punjab. Since the Egyptian revolution, Sufi mosques in Alexandria have been attacked. Sufi schools and cemetaries have been desecrated in Libya in the past year. Three Sufi dervishes were shot by Iranian security forces in Fars province last September. 

Anti-Sufi violence may not be new, but the scale and audacity of these attacks do seem to be increasing. 

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Passport

Dear America: Read this before heading north

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling upholding President Obama's sweeping health care reform package, there have been some rumblings around the Twitterverse about a movement to emigrate to Canada.

As one such Tweeter put it:

#SCOTUS holds up free healthcare for everyone?! Screw this commie country, I'm moving to #Canada #whoswithme.

Apparently Canada's alleged death panels -- frequently featured in right wing rhetoric during the debate surrounding the passage of the health care bill in 2009 -- were not a factor in the decision to relocate.

As a citizen of Canada, I feel it is my duty to clarify some points before a wave of disgruntled anti-Obamacare immigrants arrives at the border

Canada has one of the most comprehensive single-payer public healthcare systems in the world. Everyone is covered, and there is no opt-out option. In the higher tax brackets, we pay nearly 50 percent of earnings in income tax in order to fund health care and other social services.

So, consider yourself warned: If you move to Canada, you will be heavily taxed. Then we will pay for your doctor's appointments. We will heavily subsidize your medications. We will cover your chemotherapy. We will stuff you with poutine and then pay for your coronary bypass.  

The poutine, however, is on you, unless you qualify for our welfare system. In which case, we'll cover that too.

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