ISIS committing cultural heritage atrocities of the Middle East

<ISIS committing cultural heritage atrocities of the Middle East>

Throughout the history, cultural heritage were meant to be preserved carefully since they are precious, and are the symbol of tradition, religion, and memory of the past. However, these treasures are getting destroyed by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in an inhumane way. They destroyed over thousands of sculptures, artifacts, and also intellectual materials.

In May 2015, ISIS took over Palmyra, an archaeological city located in the central part of Syria. Cultural properties including ‘the Lion of al-Lat’ vanished, and Khalid al-Assad, Palmyra’s retired chief of antiquities was beheaded publicly because he refused against the ISIS to reveal the places cultural artifacts were removed.

The question is: Why are they doing this? Is this really what the Qur’an wants?

The main reason why ISIS is committing such inhumane and insane crimes is to generate more fear in the global society. They are frightening the world by showing their impunity and impotence of the international community. Also, ISIS pursues illegal trade on cultural assets in order to earn money. It is assumed that they have earned $36 million dollars until now.

ISIS is being iconoclastic and claims that they are doing exactly what Muhammad is telling them to do. However, the Qur’an says something different. Here are two phrases from the Qur’an about preserving cultural heritage:

“And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated…”

“And if anyone of the idolaters ask protection of thee, grant him protection so that he may hear the word of Allah; then convey him to his place of security…”

These two phrases show the attitudes people must have towards the cultural properties, especially to worship and respect, which generates contradiction on the ISIS’s actions.

ISIS has already destroyed numerous temples, and other cultural assets including the Temple of Baalshamin, Temple of Baal, statue of Athena at the Palmyra museum, and etc. However, as Irina Georgieva Bokova, the secretary general of UNESCO has spoken, there are no specific methods to stop them, so antiquity trafficking must be prevented first.

Now, numerous ancient sites are being ruined by ISIS. We should not let this terrorist group conquer the field of culture, which represents the minds and souls of the people.

Written by 김형근