Iraq statue smashing sparks outrage /qusay tariq
The Egyptian body which rules on Islamic law on Friday condemned ISIS' destruction of Iraqi artifacts, saying the Prophet Mohammed's own companions had never demolished ancient heritage.
The Dar al-Ifta, whose rulings are sought by Muslims from around the world, said the jihadis' videotaped smashing of ancient statues at the Mosul museum in northern Iraq showed their ignorance of the teachings of the faith.
"Such antiquities are to be found in all of the countries conquered by Muslims, but the prophet's companions did not order their destruction or even authorise anything approaching it," the body ruled.
"Some of the prophet's companions even came to Egypt... and discovered the Pyramids, the Sphinx and other remains but they did not issue fatwas [religious edicts] against these antiquities, which have immense historical value."
In the jihadis' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a material corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognizing other objects of worship than God.
Their views are marginal however and most clerics, even those who promote a rigorist Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the prophet are now part of cultural heritage.
On the other hand,UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called Friday on the International Criminal Court to look into the destruction of priceless artifacts by jihadis in Iraq that has caused outrage globally.
A video released Thursday of ISIS militants smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Mosul drew shocked condemnation and sparked fears that more of the world's oldest heritage would be destroyed.
"We are expecting some reaction from the International Criminal Court, it's very important because it will mobilize a big part of the international community," Bokova told reporters in Paris, where the UN cultural body is headquartered.
Bokova, who said she had sent a letter to the ICC's prosecutor and has also demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, slammed the destruction as "cultural cleansing."
It's "the deliberate destruction of heritage that targets the identities of different communities living in Iraq."
ISIS has controlled Iraq's second city of Mosul since June last year and has destroyed several historical and cultural sites across the country, including Muslim shrines.
In the jihadis' extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a corruption of pure, early Muslim faith and amount to recognising other objects of worship than God.
Their views are marginal however and most clerics, even those who promote orthodox Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the Prophet Mohammed are now simply part of cultural heritage.
"This tragedy is far from only being a cultural issue. It's a major security issue," Bokova said, adding it was "terror strategy to destabilize and manipulate the population and ensure the domination of the Islamic State group [ISIS]."
A video of jihadis in Iraq gleefully smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers sparked global outrage and fears Friday that more of the world’s oldest heritage will be destroyed.
The destruction of priceless Assyrian and other artifacts from the main museum and an archaeological site in the northern city of Mosul drew comparisons with the 2001 dynamiting of the Bamiyan buddhas in Afghanistan.
Archaeologists and heritage experts called for urgent action to protect the remains of some of the oldest civilizations in the world.
After demanding an emergency meeting of the Security Council, the head of the United Nations’ cultural body said the International Criminal Court should also take action.
UNESCO chief Irinia Bokova described the destruction as “cultural cleansing.”
French President Francois Hollande joined the chorus of condemnation. “What the terrorists want to do is destroy all of humanity,” Hollande said.
ISIS has controlled Iraq’s second city since June and has destroyed several historical and cultural sites across the country, including Muslim shrines.
In the jihadis’ extreme interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines are a material corruption of the purity of the early Muslim faith and amount to recognizing objects of worship other than God.
Their views are marginal, however, and most preachers, even those who promote a rigorist Islam, argue that what were idols in the days of the Prophet Mohammad are now part of cultural heritage.
A bearded militant talking to the camera in the video released Thursday argues that the destruction happening behind him is a repeat of when Prophet Mohammad destroyed statues of idols in Mecca almost 1,400 years ago.
“The artifacts and statues in the Mosul museum are not idols of gods, but statues of kings, animals and birds,” said Islamic sciences professor at the Lebanese University Radwan al-Sayyed. “Even if they were statues of gods, they are in a museum, and the Quran calls on drawing lessons from them because they were for people who have long passed and that teaches you that life is finite.”
The Egyptian body which rules on Islamic law condemned the destruction of the Iraqi artifacts.
“Such antiquities are to be found in all of the countries conquered by Muslims, but the Prophet’s companions did not order their destruction or even authorize anything approaching it,” said Dar al-Ifta, whose rulings are sought by Muslims from around the world.
Some of the statues destroyed in the video were likely replicas of pieces that had been moved to safety or are kept in museums in the West, experts say.
But several were originals, including the colossal granite Assyrian winged bull at Nergal gate in central Mosul which jihadis armed with a jackhammer can be seen defacing.
After wrecking the giant statue, ISIS militants reportedly told the guards of the vast archaeological site that the ancient city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, was next on their list.
“It is one of the very important Assyrian capitals. There are reliefs and winged bulls there ... This would be a real disaster,” said Abdelamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist at New York’s Stony Brook University.
Hamdani voiced fears the jihadis would also target Hatra, a UNESCO-listed site in ISIS-controlled territory around 100 kilometers southwest of Mosul.
UNESCO says the remains of Hatra, “especially the temples where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features, attest to the greatness of its civilization.”
ISIS militants Thursday blew up a 12th-century mosque, purportedly because it contained a tomb.
They have also destroyed much of the Mosul library’s collection, some of the city’s best-known shrines, as well as historical sites elsewhere in the country.
“This is not the end of the story and the international community must intervene,” Hamdani said.
U.S. and other Western air forces operate in the Mosul area to provide support for Iraqi Kurdish and federal forces that are working their way toward the city.
Mounir Bouchenaki, the director of the Bahrain-based Arab Regional Center for World Heritage, admitted it would be hard to physically protect Hatra, Nimrud or other sites in ISIS areas. “If you don’t have people on the ground, it’s very difficult and you even risk contributing to the destruction,” he said.
Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby called the vandalism “one of the most odious crimes committed in our day and age against the heritage of humanity.”
Paris’ Louvre said ISIS had hit at the heart of “humanity’s memory.”
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