A man stands near the Tomb of Askia, which was built in 1485 for the burial of Toure, the ancient king of the Songhai Empire, in the northeastern Malian city of Gao September 6, 2012. Islamists of the Ansar Dine rebel group, which in April seized Mali's north, have threatened to destroy the tomb of Askia along with Tuareg separatists who have destroyed at least eight Timbuktu mausoleums and several tombs, centuries-old shrines. Picture taken September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra (MALI - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS RELIGION SOCIETY)



There's a West African proverb:"The word of God and holy things, and beautiful tales are found only in Timbuktu." The city was once a major center for trade and Islamic scholarship in West Africa. Hundreds of years ago, Sufi Muslims built shrines to their saints in Timbuktu. Today, those shrines and mausoleums are under attack. Sunni Muslim extremists recently seized control of Timbuktu and the rest of northern Mali earlier this year. Now they're destroying the religious relics, calling them idolatrous. The World's Lisa Mullins spoke with Rudolph "Butch" Ware, a historian at the University of Michigan who studies Islam in Africa.

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