More from RELS 348: Empire, Colonialism, and Religion

On the article “Islamic state ‘demolishes’ ancient Hatra site in Iraq” from BBC News, 7 March 2015

This article discusses the recent destruction of historical heritage sites across Iraq by the Islamic State, an extremist militant group that has seized territories in Syria and Iraq. Iraqi officials have reported the demolition of ancient ruins in the cities of Hatra and Nimrud, as well as the smashing of museum artifacts in Mosul. The Islamic State released a video of militants using sledgehammers to destroy statues and other artifacts in a museum in Mosul, calling shrines and statues “false idols” that should be smashed. Unesco head Irina Bokova condemned the “cultural cleansing” in Iraq as a “war crime”, asserting that there is no justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage. The tourism and antiquities ministry criticized the international community for failing to help Iraq protect its monuments.

The destruction of these cultural monuments and artifacts are a loss not to just Iraqis but to all of humanity as it is a part of our shared history. The preservation of our history is crucial for civilization to advance as it helps guide us in making our decisions and provides insight into our origins which helps us better understand ourselves. The Islamic State claims to do this because of their rejection of idols, but it seems to me that they are simply committing censorship by trying to erase any trace of culture that is not a part of their extremist beliefs, until there are no alternatives. By destroying a part of Iraq’s heritage and culture, the Islamic State has added onto their list of crimes against humanity.

The criticisms made by the tourism and antiquities ministry are justified as the international community contributed to the current turmoil in the region, which has allowed the Islamic State to thrive. Without an effective response by other countries to help Iraq, the Islamic State will continue to wreak havoc and take advantage of the instability in the region.



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