ISIS: Modern Day Iconoclasts Bent On Cleansing Islam Of Idolatry

The Tomb of Jonah shrine before ISIS, and after.

The Tomb of Jonah shrine before ISIS, and after.

The wildflower that has sprung up in the power vacuums created in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts has a name, and it is ISIS.

Would you believe the roots of this particular group of terrorists are deeper than just being a new face of al Qaeda? Believe it, or not, their roots go all the way back to the days of the Christian iconoclasts from long ago. Have a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia citation for iconoclasm, and you’ll learn that that particular form of Christian heresy came about due to Muslim influence back in the days when Islam, that heretical departure from the Faith, was young.

But enough of denouncing ISIS’s roots in terms of heresies, Frank. What does it all mean?

It means that the folks who run ISIS, and those who join them in their quest, are trying to purify Islam of all traces of things that they believe are a departure from their conception of a pure form of Islam. This is why they destroyed the tomb of Jonah, and why they kill without mercy all who don’t agree with their quest to reform Islam right back to the way it was in the year 622 AD.

In other words, big trouble not just for Christians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Druze, etc., but also for any Muslims who don’t agree with their vision. They probably consider these latter folks heretics (while the former are, obviously, infidels).

Long story short, ISIS hates shrines, tombs, and the veneration thereof, because it doesn’t jive with their puritanical ideal of the practice of their particular brand of Islam. Don’t take my word on this, though. Instead, have a look at a blog post by a Muslim scholar who does a bang up job of detailing the history of this movement and its disturbing contempt for the history and faith of their coreligionists.

Over the past several months, people around the world have watched with horror as the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, murdering thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the process.

One of the most disturbing aspects of ISIS political control of conquered regions—aside from the obvious policy of mass murder, forced exile and the instituting of a terrifying version of Islamic law—has been the group’s systematic destruction of the cultural and religious heritage of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. In the past few weeks alone, numerous Alid shrines, the tomb of the great Muslim mystic Ahmad al-Rifa’i (d. 1182), and the shrines of the Prophet Yunus (Jonas), the Prophet Seth and Nabi Jirjis have been reduced to rubble.

In the past few days, Yezidi shrines have been destroyed as well.

***

In many of these cases, and specifically with the recent destruction by ISIS in Mosul, these militants have invoked the teachings of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab (and his successors) in justifying their destruction of tombs and shrines. However, it is important to remember that this is not merely the revival of an eighteenth-century phenomenon but, rather, is the product of a very modern jihadist mentality. No longer armed with mere axes and primitive gunpowder, but with bulldozers and sophisticated explosives, these militants have been able to destroy historical sites and shrines at an alarmingly quicker and more effective pace than their predecessors.

Armed, also, with the favorite device of jihadists everywhere—the video camera—ISIS has been able to transform the business of destroying traditional Islamic sites, seen as embodying the old “corrupt” order, into a spectacle which is broadcast across the world, magnifying their influence and power. The fact that a group of individuals can, in the space of two weeks, destroy the heritage of the past 2000 years (as they have done in Mosul) and, within minutes, proudly distribute the footage for the entire world to see is an illustration of the frightening capabilities of modern terrorism.

Read the entire fascinating history, and follow up the footnotes.

It helps to understand the roots of their iconoclasm, and where it leads. My $.02 is ISIS is sowing the seeds of their own destruction, making martyrs of folks who will a) quash them, and b) rid them from their midst. Pray the territories they are in do not become another Rwanda first. That is an ugly prospect.

Also, since ISIS is probing Lebanon, too, how much longer before they start eyeing Jordan as well? It’s time the Muslim countries of the Middle East decide that they won’t put up with stateless warlords, accountable to no one, wreaking havoc in their midst.

International Coalition, anyone?

Nun


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