We have heard much screaming over Mr. Trump suggesting we might destroy cultural sites in Iran. Not ancient sites, obviously, but the more recent islamic ones which support the ‘mandate of allah.’
This is not just bad, but evil. Destroying cultural artifacts is more evil than killing. More evil than starving. More evil than letting girls burn to death in their flaming school because there were not properly dressed.
So why is it not egregiously evil to destroy cultural sites in America? Statues of Robert E. Lee. Murals of Columbus. Thomas Jefferson?
Buddhas of Bamyan
Based on the verdict of the clergymen and the decision of the supreme court of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed.”
“According to Islam, I don’t worry about anything. My job is the implementation of Islamic order. The breaking of statues is an Islamic order and I have given this decision in the light of a fatwa of the ulema (clerics) and the supreme court of Afghanistan. Islamic law is the only law acceptable to me.”
“Only Allah, the Almighty, deserves to be worshipped, not anyone or anything else.
— Mullah Mohammad Omar[2In 2014, media reported destruction of multiple, Sunni and Shiite, mosques and shrines throughout areas captured by ISIL. Among them were the Al-Qubba Husseiniya Mosque in Mosul, Sheikh Jawad Al-Sadiq Mosque, Mosque of Arnā’ūt, Mosque of Qado, Mosque of Askar e- Mullah and Saad Bin Aqeel Shrine in Tal Afar, Sufi Ahmed al-Rifai Shrine and tomb and Sheikh Ibrahim shrine in Mahlabiya District and the so-called Tomb of the Girl (Qabr al-Bint) in Mosul. The Tomb of the Girl, reputed to honour a girl who died of a broken heart, was actually believed to be the tomb of medieval scholar Ali ibn al-Athir.
In June 2014, ISIL bulldozed the two buildings in the complex of the shrine of Fathi al-Ka’en.
On 24 September 2014, the Arba’een Wali Mosque and Shrine in Tikrit, containing forty tombs from the Umar era, was blown up. On 26 February 2015 ISIL blew up the 12th century Green Mosque in central Mosul.
In Mosul, ISIL also targeted several tombs with shrines built over them. In July 2014, ISIL destroyed one of the tombs of prophet Daniel (located in Mosul) by planted explosives. On 24 July 2014, the tomb and mosque of the prophet Jonah was destroyed with explosives. On 27 July, ISIL destroyed the tomb of Prophet Jirjis (George).
On 25 July 2014, the 13th-century shrine of Imam Awn al-Din in Mosul, one of the few structures to have survived the 13th-century Mongol invasion, was destroyed by ISIL. The destruction was mostly carried out with explosive devices, but in some cases bulldozers were used.
In March 2015, ISIL reportedly bulldozed to the ground the Hamu Al-Qadu Mosque in Mosul, dating back to 1880. The Hamu-Al-Qadu mosque contained an earlier tomb of Ala-al-din Ibn Abdul Qadir Gilani. In the same year ISIL ordered the removal of all decorative elements and frescoes from mosques in Mosul, even those containing Quranic verses that mention Allah. They were regarded by ISIL as “an erroneous form of creativity, contradicting the basics of sharia.” At least one imam in Mosul opposing that order was shot to death.
Leaning minaret of the Great Mosque of Al-nuri. Destroyed by ISIL on 22 June 2017 during the Battle of Mosul.
ISIL also destroyed Sufi shrines near Tripoli, Libya, in March 2015. The shrines were destroyed by sledgehammers and bulldozers.
In June 2015, it was announced that ISIL had blown up the ancient tombs of Mohammed bin Ali and Nizar Abu Bahaaeddine, located close to the ruins of Palmyra.
In 2016, ISIL destroyed the Minaret of Anah located in Al Anbar Province, which dates back to the Abbasid era. The minaret was only rebuilt in 2013 after the destruction by an unknown perpetrator in 2006.
In 2017, ISIL destroyed the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its leaning minaret. This was the mosque where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic State caliphate three years prior
In June 2014, it was reported that ISIL elements had been instructed to destroy all churches in Mosul. Since then, most churches within the city have been destroyed.
- The Virgin Mary Church was destroyed with several improvised explosive devices in July 2014.
- Dair Mar Elia, the oldest monastery in Iraq, was demolished sometime between late August and September 2014. The destruction went unreported until January 2016.
- The Al-Tahera Church, built in the early 20th century, was possibly blown up in early February 2015. However, there is no evidence that the church was actually destroyed.
- St Markourkas Church, a 10th-century Chaldean Catholic church, was destroyed on 9 March 2015, according to the Iraqi government official Dureid Hikmat Tobia. A nearby cemetery was also bulldozed.
- Another church, which was reportedly “thousands of years” old, was blown up in July 2015. According to Kurdish sources, four children were inadvertently killed when the church was destroyed.
- The Sa’a Qadima Church, which was built in 1872, was blown up in April 2016.
ISIL also blew up or demolished a number of other churches elsewhere in Iraq or in Syria. The Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor, Syria was blown up by ISIL militants on 21 September 2014.
On 24 September 2014 ISIL militants destroyed with improvised explosive devices the 7th-century Green Church (also known as St Ahoadamah Church) belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East in Tikrit.
The Mar Behnam Monastery in Khidr Ilyas near Bakhdida, Iraq was destroyed by ISIL in March 2015.
As of 5 April 2015, ISIL destroyed the Assyrian Christian Virgin Mary Church on Easter Sunday in the Syrian town of Tel Nasri. “As the ‘joint forces’ of Kurdish People’s Protection Units and local Assyrian fighters attempted to enter the town”, ISIL set off the explosives destroying what remained of the church. ISIL had controlled the church since 7 March 2015.
In May 2014, ISIL members smashed a 3,000-year-old neo-Assyrian statue from Tel Ajaja. Later reports indicated that over 40% of the artifacts at Tel Ajaja (Saddikanni) were looted by ISIS
In January 2015, ISIL reportedly destroyed large parts of the Nineveh Wall in al-Tahrir neighborhood of Mosul. Further parts of the walls, including the Mashka and Adad Gate, were blown up in April 2016.
In the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIL publicly ordered the bulldozing of a colossal ancient Assyrian gateway lion sculpture from the 8th century BC. Another lion statue was also destroyed. Both statues originated from the Arslan Tash archaeological site. The destruction was published in the ISIL magazine, Dabiq. Among the lost statues are those of Mulla Uthman al-Mawsili, of a woman carrying an urn, and of Abu Tammam.
On 26 February 2015, ISIL released a video showing the destruction of various ancient artifacts in the Mosul Museum. The affected artifacts originate from the Assyrian era and from the ancient city of Hatra. The video in particular shows the defacement of a granite lamassu statue from the right side of the Nergal Gate by a jackhammer. The statue remained buried until 1941 when heavy rains eroded the soil around the gate and exposed two statues on both sides. Several other defaced items in the museum were claimed to be copies, but this was later rebutted by Iraq’s Minister of Culture, Adel Sharshab who said: “Mosul Museum had many ancient artifacts, big and small. None of them were transported to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. Thus, all artifacts destroyed in Mosul are original except for four pieces that were made of gypsum“.
Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, pictured in 2007. ISIL reportedly bulldozed the city in March 2015
On 5 March 2015, ISIL reportedly started the demolition of Nimrud, an Assyrian city from the 13th century BC. The local palace was bulldozed, while lamassu statues at the gates of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II were smashed. A video showing the destruction of Nimrud was released in April 2015.
On 7 March 2015, Kurdish sources reported that ISIL had begun the bulldozing of Hatra, which has been under threat of demolition after ISIL had occupied the adjacent area. The next day ISIL sacked Dur-Sharrukin, according to a Kurdish official from Mosul, Saeed Mamuzini.
The Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry launched the related investigation on the same day. On 8 April 2015, the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism reported that ISIL destroyed the remnants of the 12th-century Bash Tapia Castle in Mosul. As of early July 2015, 20% of Iraq’s 10,000 archaeological sites has been under ISIL control.
In 2015 the face of the Winged Bull of Nineveh was damaged.
Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which was blown up by ISIL in August 2015
Following the capture of Palmyra in Syria, ISIL was reported as not intending to demolish the city’s World Heritage Site (while still intending to destroy any statues deemed ‘polytheistic‘). On 27 May 2015, ISIL released an 87-second video showing parts of the apparently undamaged ancient colonnades, the Temple of Bel and the Roman theatre. On 27 June 2015, however, ISIL demolished the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue in Palmyra. (It has since been restored, and is in storage in a Damascus museum until it can be determined that the statue can be safely returned to Palmyra.) Several other statues from Palmyra reportedly confiscated from a smuggler were also destroyed by ISIL. On 23 August 2015, it was reported that ISIL had blown up the 1st-century Temple of Baalshamin. On 30 August 2015, ISIL demolished the Temple of Bel with explosives. Satellite imagery of the site taken shortly after showed almost nothing remained.
According to the report issued on September 3, 2015 by ASOR Syrian Heritage initiative, ISIL also destroyed seven ancient tower tombs in Palmyra since the end of June over two phases. The last phase of destruction occurred between August 27 and September 2, 2015, including the destruction of the 2nd-century AD Tower of Elahbel, called “the most prominent example of Palmyra’s distinct funerary monuments”. Earlier, the ancient tombs of Iamliku and Atenaten were also destroyed. The Monumental Arch was also blown up in October.
When Palmyra was recaptured by Syrian government forces in March 2016, retreating ISIL fighters blew up parts of the 13th-century Palmyra Castle, causing extensive damage.
ISIL has also looted and demolished the Parthian/Roman city of Dura-Europos in east of Syria. Nicknamed “the Pompeii of the desert”, the city was of particular archaeological significance.
It was reported on 1 January 2019 that Syrian authorities recovered two Roman-era funerary busts smuggled from Palmyra from an abandoned ISIL site in the Al-Sukhnah countryside.
ISIL has burned or stolen collections of books and papers from various locations, including the Central Library of Mosul (which they rigged with explosives and burned down), the library at the University of Mosul, a Sunni Muslim library, a 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers, and the Mosul Museum Library. Some destroyed or stolen works date back to 5000 BC and include “Iraq newspapers dating to the early 20th century, maps and books from the Ottoman Empire, and book collections contributed by about 100 of Mosul’s establishment families.” The stated goal is to destroy all non-Islamic books.
The Tomb of Eve, also known as Eve’s Grave and Eve’s Tomb, is an archeological site located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (21°29′31″N 39°11′24″E). It is considered by some Muslims to be the burial place of Eve. Prince Faisal, Viceroy of Hejaz, destroyed it in 1928. In 1975, the site was also sealed with concrete by religious authorities, who disapprove of pilgrims praying at tombs.
The house of Mawlid where Muhammad is believed to have been born in 570. Originally turned into a library, it now lies under a rundown building which was built 70 years ago as a compromise after Wahhabi clerics called for it to be demolished.
The house of Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife. Muslims believe he received some of the first revelations there. It was also where his children Zainab bint Muhammad, Ruqayyah bint Muhammad, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, Fatimah, Qasim and Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad were born. After it was rediscovered during the Haram extensions in 1989, it was covered over and it was made into a library.
A Hilton hotel stands on the site of the house of Islam’s first caliph, Abu Bakr.
House of Muhammed in Medina, where he lived after the migration from Mecca.
Dar e Arqam, the first Islamic school where Muhammad taught. It now lies under the extension of the Masjid Alharam of Mecca.
Qubbat’ al-Thanaya, the burial site of Muhammed’s incisor that was broken in the Battle of Uhud.
Mashrubat Umm Ibrahim, built to mark the location of the house where Muhammad’s son, Ibrahim, was born to Mariah.
Dome which served as a canopy over the Well of Zamzam.
Bayt al-Ahzan of Sayyida Fatima, in Medina.
House of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, in Medina.
Mahhalla complex of Banu Hashim, in Mecca.
House of Ali where Hasan and Husayn were born
In August 2017, the 1792 monument to Christopher Columbus in Baltimore, the oldest in the United States, was destroyed by a sledgehammer, and the perpetrators posted a video online of themselves destroying it
The monument to Christopher Columbus in New York City’s Columbus Circle, whose hands were defaced with red paint on September 12, 2017.
A statue of Columbus in Yonkers, New York was decapitated
The statue of Joan of Arc, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, was painted with the words “Tear it Down” in early 2017.
In August, 2017, a bust of Abraham Lincoln in West Englewood, Chicago was spray-painted black and later covered in tar and set on fire.
Under cover of darkness, city workers removed a statue in August 2017 of former Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney that had been on the State House’s front lawn for 145 years. Taney authored the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision, which held that African-Americans could not be U.S. citizens. The city’s Republican mayor said through a spokesman that it was removed “as a matter of public safety.”
Shih Huang Ti, the first emperor of China, ordered both the construction of the Great Wall and the burning of all the books written before his time.