A Scimitar for a Throat

Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler
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This "campaign" traces back to the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

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He reportedly "had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into his house with its figure upon it," wrote one historian Sword and Scimitar , p. Muhammad also claimed that at the end times Jesus the Muslim 'Isa himself would make it a point to "break the cross.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Tarifi. Modern day Muslim clerics confirm this. When asked about Islam's ruling on whether any person—in this case, Christians—is permitted to wear or pray before the cross, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Tarifi, a Saudi expert on Islamic law, said , "Under no circumstances is a human permitted to wear the cross" nor "is anyone permitted to pray to the cross.

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Islamic history is a reflection of these sentiments. For instance, the aforementioned Sheikh al-Tarifi also explained that if it is too difficult to break the cross—for instance, a large concrete statue—Muslims should at least try to disfigure one of its four arms "so that it no longer resembles a cross.

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Anastasius of Sinai, as depicted by Rembrandt, Testimonies from the very earliest invasions into Christian Syria and Egypt of Muslims systematically breaking every crucifix they encountered abound. And it is with reason. The latter are perhaps even worse than the demons," for whereas "the demons are frequently much afraid of the mysteries of Christ," among which he mentions the cross, "these demons of flesh trample all that under their feet, mock it, set fire to it, destroy it" Sword and Scimitar , p.

Reminiscent of the recent drawing of a cross in fecal matter on a French church, in in Portugal, Muslims displayed "with much derision the symbol of the cross.

They spat upon it and wiped the feces from their posteriors with it. Lest Muslim hostility to the cross still seem aberrant—limited to some obscure saying of Muhammad or "ancient history"—below is a very partial list of examples of how the crucifix continues to throw even "everyday" Muslims into paroxysms:. Egypt: A young Coptic Christian woman named Mary was mauled to death when her cross identified her as a Christian to Muslim Brotherhood rioters.

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Similarly, year-old Ayman, a Coptic student, was strangled and beaten to death by his Muslim teacher and fellow students for refusing to obey the teacher's orders to cover his cross. Julie Aftab. Pakistan: When a Muslim man saw Julie Aftab , a Christian woman, wearing a cross around her neck, he attacked her, forced battery acid down her throat, and splashed it on her face—permanently damaging her esophagus, blinding her in one eye, and causing her to lose both eyelids and most of her teeth.

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Turkey: A year-old boy in Turkey wearing a silver cross necklace in class was spit on and beaten regularly by Muslim classmates and teachers. Malaysia: A Christian cemetery was attacked and desecrated in the middle of the night by unknown persons in the Muslim-majority nation. Several crosses were destroyed , including by the use of "a heavy tool to do the damage.

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It was quickly removed. Maldives: Authorities had to rescue a female Christian teacher after Muslim "parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island" for "preaching Christianity. As Islam's presence continues to grow in Europe, attacks on crosses are also on the rise. As Islam's presence continues to grow in Europe, it should come as no surprise that attacks on crosses are also on the rise. Aside from the aforementioned attacks in Italy, the following occurred either in France and Germany, where attacks on churches and crosses have become endemic :.

Muslims desecrate a British military cemetery near Benghazi. Similarly, in post "Arab Spring" Libya, a video of a Muslim mob attacking a commonwealth cemetery near Benghazi appeared on the internet. There were others - so often neglected that a technical volume about them was called The Other Saber-tooths - and it seems that they nabbed dinner on the hoof in a different way than our beloved Smilodon.

A SCIMITAR FOR A THROAT

Paleontologist Borja Figueirido and colleagues break it down. These carnivores typically had burly physiques and relatively longer canines, the combination making them adept ambush predators. For comparison, the researchers tapped Homotherium serum - a scimitar-toothed sabercat with a lankier, leggier build and shorter canines, often interpreted as more of a pursuit predator.

The differences between these cats go beyond their general proportions. At the front of the Smilodon skull, for example, the researchers found a larger amount of cortical bone than in Homotherium. This is a specific type of bone that is relatively stiff - as compared to more flexible trabecular bone - and would have reinforced the skull of Smilodon against the stresses involved in sinking canines into flesh yet would have been relatively weak against the side-to-side stresses of a prey animal trying to escape.

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Homotherium showed a different pattern. In addition to having less cortical bone at the front of the skull, this scimitar cat had a greater amount of trabecular bone towards the back of the skull.

But how? This might indicate a different way of biting, and it also hints at an evolutionary trade off in terms of subduing prey. There are other sabertooths the same type of analysis could be carried out on.

A Scimitar for a Throat (Unabridged)

Smilodon represents only the tip of the sabertoothed iceberg. The views expressed are those of the author s and are not necessarily those of Scientific American. Brian is a freelance science writer and author of fossiliferous books such as My Beloved Brontosaurus.

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